Holocene ( /ˈhɒləˌsiːn, ˈhoʊ-/) is the current
geological epoch. It began after the Pleistocene, approximately
11,650 cal years before present. The
Holocene is part of the
Quaternary period. Its name comes from the
Ancient Greek words
ὅλος (holos, whole or entire) and καινός (kainos, new),
meaning "entirely recent". It has been identified with the current
warm period, known as MIS 1, and is considered by some to be an
Holocene encompasses the growth and impacts of the human species
worldwide, including all its written history, development of major
civilizations, and overall significant transition toward urban living
in the present. Human impacts on modern-era
Earth and its ecosystems
may be considered of global significance for future evolution of
living species, including approximately synchronous lithospheric
evidence, or more recently atmospheric evidence of human impacts. The
International Commission on Stratigraphy Subcommission on Quaternary
Stratigraphy’s working group on the 'Anthropocene' (coined by Paul
Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000) note this term is used to denote
the present time interval in which many geologically significant
conditions and processes have been profoundly altered by human
activities. The 'Anthropocene' is not a formally defined geological
4 Ecological developments
5 Human developments
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
It is accepted by the
International Commission on Stratigraphy that
Holocene started approximately 11,650 cal years BP. The
Quaternary Stratigraphy quotes Gibbard and van
Kolfschoten in Gradstein Ogg and Smith in stating the term 'Recent' as
an alternative to
Holocene is invalid and should not be used and also
observe that the term Flandrian, derived from marine transgression
sediments on the Flanders coast of Belgium has been used as a synonym
Holocene by authors who consider the last 10,000 years should have
the same stage-status as previous interglacial events and thus be
included in the Pleistocene. The International Commission on
Stratigraphy however considers the
Holocene an epoch following the
Pleistocene and specifically the last glacial period. Local names for
the last glacial period include the Wisconsinan in North America,
the Weichselian in Europe, the Devensian in Britain, the
Llanquihue in Chile and the Otiran in New Zealand.
Holocene can be subdivided into five time intervals, or
chronozones, based on climatic fluctuations:
Preboreal (10 ka–9 ka),
Boreal (9 ka–8 ka),
Atlantic (8 ka–5 ka),
Subboreal (5 ka–2.5 ka) and
Subatlantic (2.5 ka–present).
Note: "ka" means "thousand years" (non-calibrated C14 dates)
The Blytt–Sernander classification of climatic periods initially
defined by plant remains in peat mosses, is currently being explored.
Geologists working in different regions are studying sea levels, peat
bogs and ice core samples by a variety of methods, with a view toward
further verifying and refining the Blytt–Sernander sequence. They
find a general correspondence across Eurasia and North America, though
the method was once thought to be of no interest. The scheme was
defined for Northern Europe, but the climate changes were claimed to
occur more widely. The periods of the scheme include a few of the
Holocene oscillations of the last glacial period and then
classify climates of more recent prehistory.
Paleontologists have not defined any faunal stages for the Holocene.
If subdivision is necessary, periods of human technological
development, such as the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age, are
usually used. However, the time periods referenced by these terms vary
with the emergence of those technologies in different parts of the
Holocene may be divided evenly into the Hypsithermal
Neoglacial periods; the boundary coincides with the start of the
Bronze Age in Europe. According to some scholars, a third division,
the Anthropocene, has now begun.
Holocene cinder cone volcano on
State Highway 18 near Veyo, Utah
Continental motions due to plate tectonics are less than a kilometre
over a span of only 10,000 years. However, ice melt caused world sea
levels to rise about 35 m (115 ft) in the early part of the
Holocene. In addition, many areas above about 40 degrees north
latitude had been depressed by the weight of the
and rose as much as 180 m (590 ft) due to post-glacial
rebound over the late
Pleistocene and Holocene, and are still rising
The sea level rise and temporary land depression allowed temporary
marine incursions into areas that are now far from the sea. Holocene
marine fossils are known, for example, from
Vermont and Michigan.
Other than higher-latitude temporary marine incursions associated with
Holocene fossils are found primarily in lakebed,
floodplain, and cave deposits.
Holocene marine deposits along
low-latitude coastlines are rare because the rise in sea levels during
the period exceeds any likely tectonic uplift of non-glacial
Post-glacial rebound in the
Scandinavia region resulted in the
formation of the Baltic Sea. The region continues to rise, still
causing weak earthquakes across Northern Europe. The equivalent event
North America was the rebound of Hudson Bay, as it shrank from its
larger, immediate post-glacial
Tyrrell Sea phase, to near its present
Temperature variations during the Holocene
Paleogeographic reconstruction of the
North Sea approximately 9,000
years ago during the early
Holocene and after the end of the last ice
Climate has been fairly stable over the Holocene.
Ice core records
show that before the
Holocene there was global warming after the end
of the last ice age and cooling periods, but climate changes became
more regional at the start of the Younger Dryas. During the transition
from the last glacial to the Holocene, the Huelmo–Mascardi Cold
Reversal in the
Southern Hemisphere began before the Younger Dryas,
and the maximum warmth flowed south to north from 11,000 to 7,000
years ago. It appears that this was influenced by the residual glacial
ice remaining in the
Northern Hemisphere until the later
Holocene climatic optimum
Holocene climatic optimum (HCO) was a period of warming in which
the global climate became warmer. However, the warming was probably
not uniform across the world. This period of warmth ended about 5,500
years ago with the descent into the
Neoglacial and concomitant
Neopluvial. At that time, the climate was not unlike today's, but
there was a slightly warmer period from the 10th–14th centuries
known as the Medieval Warm Period. This was followed by the Little Ice
Age, from the 13th or 14th century to the mid-19th century, which was
a period of cooling.
Compared to glacial conditions, habitable zones have expanded
northwards, reaching their northernmost point during the HCO. Greater
moisture in the polar regions has caused the disappearance of
The temporal and spatial extent of
Holocene climate change is an area
of considerable uncertainty, with radiative forcing recently proposed
to be the origin of cycles identified in the North Atlantic region.
Climate cyclicity through the
Holocene (Bond events) has been observed
in or near marine settings and is strongly controlled by glacial input
to the North Atlantic. Periodicities of ≈2500, ≈1500, and
≈1000 years are generally observed in the North
Atlantic. At the same time spectral analyses of the
continental record, which is remote from oceanic influence, reveal
persistent periodicities of 1000 and 500 years that may correspond to
solar activity variations during the
Holocene epoch. A 1500-year
cycle corresponding to the North Atlantic oceanic circulation may have
had widespread global distribution in the Late Holocene.
Animal and plant life have not evolved much during the relatively
short Holocene, but there have been major shifts in the distributions
of plants and animals. A number of large animals including mammoths
and mastodons, saber-toothed cats like
Smilodon and Homotherium, and
giant sloths disappeared in the late
Pleistocene and early
Holocene—especially in North America, where animals that survived
elsewhere (including horses and camels) became extinct. This
extinction of American megafauna has been explained as caused by the
arrival of the ancestors of Amerindians; though most scientists assert
that climatic change also contributed. In addition, a controversial
bolide impact over
North America has been hypothesized to have
triggered the Younger Dryas.
Throughout the world, ecosystems in cooler climates that were
previously regional have been isolated in higher altitude ecological
The 8.2 ka event, an abrupt cold spell recorded as a negative
excursion in the δ18O record lasting 400 years, is the most prominent
climatic event occurring in the
Holocene epoch, and may have marked a
resurgence of ice cover. It has been suggested that this event was
caused by the final drainage of Lake Agassiz, which had been confined
by the glaciers, disrupting the thermohaline circulation of the
Atlantic. Subsequent research however, suggested that the
discharge was probably superimposed upon a longer episode of cooler
climate lasting up to 600 years and observed that the extent of the
area affected was unclear.
See also: Human history
Bronze bead necklace, Muséum de Toulouse
The beginning of the
Holocene corresponds with the beginning of the
Mesolithic age in most of Europe; but in regions such as the Middle
Anatolia with a very early neolithisation,
preferred in place of Mesolithic. Cultures in this period include
Hamburgian, Federmesser, and the Natufian culture, during which the
oldest inhabited places still existing on
Earth were first settled,
Jericho in the Middle East. There is also evolving
archeological evidence of proto-religion at locations such as Göbekli
Tepe, as long ago as the 9th millennium BCE.
Both are followed by the aceramic
Neolithic B) and the pottery Neolithic. The Late
Holocene brought advancements such as the bow and arrow and saw new
methods of warfare in North America.
Spear throwers and their large
points were replaced by the bow and arrow with its small narrow points
beginning in Oregon and Washington. Villages built on defensive bluffs
indicate increased warfare, leading to food gathering in communal
groups for protection rather than individual hunting.
8.2 kiloyear event
10th millennium BCE
Quaternary extinction event
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Holocene.
Wikisource has original works on the topic: Cenozoic#Quaternary
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Holocene epoch explained by the BBC
Geologic history of Earth
Quaternary (present–2.588 Mya)
Holocene (present–11.784 kya)
Pleistocene (11.784 kya–2.588 Mya)
Neogene (2.588–23.03 Mya)
Pliocene (2.588–5.333 Mya)
Miocene (5.333–23.03 Mya)
Paleogene (23.03–66.0 Mya)
Oligocene (23.03–33.9 Mya)
Eocene (33.9–56.0 Mya)
Paleocene (56.0–66.0 Mya)
Cretaceous (66.0–145.0 Mya)
Late (66.0–100.5 Mya)
Early (100.5–145.0 Mya)
Jurassic (145.0–201.3 Mya)
Late (145.0–163.5 Mya)
Middle (163.5–174.1 Mya)
Early (174.1–201.3 Mya)
Triassic (201.3–251.902 Mya)
Late (201.3–237 Mya)
Middle (237–247.2 Mya)
Early (247.2–251.902 Mya)
Permian (251.902–298.9 Mya)
Lopingian (251.902–259.8 Mya)
Guadalupian (259.8–272.3 Mya)
Cisuralian (272.3–298.9 Mya)
Carboniferous (298.9–358.9 Mya)
Pennsylvanian (298.9–323.2 Mya)
Mississippian (323.2–358.9 Mya)
Devonian (358.9–419.2 Mya)
Late (358.9–382.7 Mya)
Middle (382.7–393.3 Mya)
Early (393.3–419.2 Mya)
Silurian (419.2–443.8 Mya)
Pridoli (419.2–423.0 Mya)
Ludlow (423.0–427.4 Mya)
Wenlock (427.4–433.4 Mya)
Llandovery (433.4–443.8 Mya)
Ordovician (443.8–485.4 Mya)
Late (443.8–458.4 Mya)
Middle (458.4–470.0 Mya)
Early (470.0–485.4 Mya)
Cambrian (485.4–541.0 Mya)
Furongian (485.4–497 Mya)
Series 3 (497–509 Mya)
Series 2 (509–521 Mya)
Terreneuvian (521–541.0 Mya)
(541.0 Mya–2.5 Gya)
Neoproterozoic era (541.0 Mya–1 Gya)
Ediacaran (541.0-~635 Mya)
Cryogenian (~635-~720 Mya)
Tonian (~720 Mya-1 Gya)
Mesoproterozoic era (1–1.6 Gya)
Stenian (1-1.2 Gya)
Ectasian (1.2-1.4 Gya)
Calymmian (1.4-1.6 Gya)
Paleoproterozoic era (1.6–2.5 Gya)
Statherian (1.6-1.8 Gya)
Orosirian (1.8-2.05 Gya)
Rhyacian (2.05-2.3 Gya)
Siderian (2.3-2.5 Gya)
Archean eon² (2.5–4 Gya)
Neoarchean (2.5–2.8 Gya)
Mesoarchean (2.8–3.2 Gya)
Paleoarchean (3.2–3.6 Gya)
Eoarchean (3.6–4 Gya)
Hadean eon² (4–4.6 Gya)
kya = thousands years ago. Mya = millions years ago.
Gya = billions
years ago.¹ =
Phanerozoic eon. ² =
Source: (2017/02). International Commission on Stratigraphy. Retrieved
13 July 2015. Divisions of Geologic Time—Major Chronostratigraphic
and Geochronologic Units USGS Retrieved 10 March 2013.
New Stone Age
New World crops
Ard / plough
Mortar and pestle
Bow and arrow
Game drive system
Langdale axe industry
British megalith architecture
Nordic megalith architecture
Neolithic long house
Abri de la Madeleine
Alp pile dwellings
Wattle and daub
Megalithic architectural elements
Arts and culture
Art of the Upper Paleolithic
Art of the Middle Paleolithic
Stone Age art
Bradshaw rock paintings
Carved Stone Balls
Cup and ring mark
British Isles and Brittany
Mound Builders culture
Stone box grave
Unchambered long cairn
Origin of language
Divje Babe flute
Origin of religion
Spiritual drug use