The Holocene Era

If you look at most chronologies of ancient history the date suddenly switches direction. This creates extra arithmetic that casts a veil over the unfolding of events, putting many people off history altogether. We have the Common Era and Before the Common Era shortened to CE and BCE. There is no doubt that the common era began with something decidedly uncommon, in fact unique, the birth of Jesus, the focus of a breakaway Jewish sect, at first executed as a trouble maker by the Roman Empire but whose followers, some 300 years later, included the emperor himself, Constantine, who sought to unify the religious life of this gigantic domain by elevating this former criminal to emblem of empire. Though it splintered a century later the influence of the empire is still felt globally, through its alphabet, calendar, Latin vocabulary and Christianity in its various traditions. Paradoxically the cross on which Jesus was punished is incorporated in many flags bourn by armies in territorial disputes and expansions including the United Kingdom.

But the rivers of time did not suddenly change direction at that birth but flowed continuously. Ideas, lives and cultures in every continent drifted across this moment. How can we view the many great civilisations that preceeded this event that deserve our interest and respect?

There is a practical counting method which extends the Common Era and blends into it seamlessly while being religiously and politically neutral. By a happy coincidence 10,000 years before the Common Era coincides quite well with the growth of agriculture and the beginning humankind’s marked effect on the planet, the Holocene Era. Nomadic herding and settled farming were developing around that time and lead to the succession of empires in the following 10,000 years ( 100 centuries). This definition of 10,000 years BCE is convenient for the purpose of making a neutral dating system for the study of ancient history which, in future years, may be less Eurocentric. Let’s look at how the Anthopocene Era blends into the Common Era.

CE 2HE 10002
CE 1HE 10001
BCE 1HE 10000
BCE 2HE 9999

So to convert CE to HE add 10,000. To convert from HE to CE subtract 10,000.

Subtract BCE from 10,001 to get HE. To convert HE to BCE subtract from 10,001.

What about converting centuries?

2nd century of CE102nd century of HE
1st century of CE101st century of HE
1st century BCE100th century of HE
2nd century BCE99th century of HE

To convert centuries from CE to HE add 100. To convert centuries in HE to CE subtract 100.

To convert centuries from BCE to HE subract from 101. To convert centuries in HE to BCE subtract from 101.

We are, of course, still in the HE, the 121st century in fact, in which the year of the Covid-19 pandemic can be written as 12019 HE. Some people use a comma as in 12,091 but I don’t think that’s helpful or necessary in a date.

This dating system was first proposed by the Italian-American scientist Cesare Emiliani in 1993 in the journal Nature. It has an enthusiastic follower in the form of the artist-lawyer-activist Ruthie S. Premack who has gone through from day 1 of the Holocene Era to the present day meticulously renumbering events and placed her researches on line , the Illustrated Holocene Era Timeline. Here’s a link to a short video introduction the Dawn of the Holocene Era Calendar.

Some, like Ruthie S. Premark, add 1 in front of all the Common era dates to turn them into HE. I don’t see that as very useful at the moment especially with a comma. In the business world documents often start by expressing the date e.g. 20210215 (15feb2021) which is easy for computers to read and arrange documents in chronological order. I balked when I first saw it but you get used to reading such dates as they are very repetitious.

Placing HE dates alongside BC and BCE dates would greatly widen the understanding of ancient history. I would suggest going back one year further to year 0 HE. Then you can label the millenia as millenium 0 HE, millenium 2 HE and so forth up to millenium 9 HE. These can be abbevated as m0 HE, m1 HE…..m9 HE. I suggest a lower case m as that constrasts nicely with the following numeral. Then m9 HE blends gracefully into CE. Let me know if my math has gone astray.

Arranging ancient history into millenia 0 to 9 would make a great M.A./ Phd topic (Ruthie S. Premark has laid a useful foundation).

What about dates before 1 HE or BHE as advocated?. With BHE I think a comma to indicate thousands is actually useful because the numbers are much greater.


Whereas the cardinal points of the compass tend to be short words with clear meaning, north, south, east and west, the cardinal points of the year are long winded and, because of opposite seasons in the norththern and southern hemispsheres, ambiguous.

Spring/Autumn Equinox (March)

Summer/Winter Solstice (June)

Autumn/Spring Equinox (September)

Winter/Summer Solstice (December)

These could be shortened unabiguously to

MarEq . . . . . . . . . JunSol . . . . . . . . SeptEq . . . . . . . . DecSol

giving us abbreviations that are usable in the northern and southern hemispheres, across languages and religions and reminding us of our peculiar location in the solar system. Here they around the classic imagery of Andreas Cellarius.


Below is the head of a flawed philosopher, Epicurus, whose principle beliefs where that happiness can be achieved by living a simple life in the company of friends: that the gods may exist but that they are distant and not terribly interested in human affairs so best ignored: that there is nothing to fear after death as you just cease to exist: that you should avoid any quest for wealth and power. There is a flaw. If you have no power you cannot defend yourself and sooner or later someone will come along and crush you and your philosophy. Probably.

Thomas Jefferson somehow lived with this contradiction and in 1801 became the president of an emerging global power with an army defending its territory, the United States.

This plaster caste half head, to be wall hung, was made from a mould by artist Katherine Oppel taken from a full bust based on the original in the Vatican museum kindly given to me by an Italian Epicurian, Michele Pinto.


2 to the power of 3 equals 8

8 to the power of 1/3 equals 2

back where we started – ain’t that pretty?

Or as the mathmaticians put it so beautifully (ab)1/b= a

It works for many kinds of numbers, fractions, decimals, negative

though not all and not every calculator can handle them.

Can you get your a back?


What would multiplication tables look like without any written numbers? Perhaps like the Pyramid of Prime Factors below. Each cluster of dots is a prime number. Within each circle multiply the dots together.  To get you started the bottom row is the 2 times table,  the right hand side is the 9 times table and the left hand side is each number squared.


A philosophical question: can there be thought before words? I would say , yes and list these examples:

dreams: some mornings we awake from dreams with the most intricate plot and visual details, worthy of a trip to the cinema to see something that would have taken months of forethought and close teamwork to prepare.

manual skills: the two hands are often working in close cooperation. An act that we might take for granted such as peeling an orange involves simultaneous calculation and geometrical decisions, planning and anticipations.

finding narratives for sensations: we are always searching for explanations for incoming sensations. Sometimes our first hypothesis is replaced in a fraction of a second by a better one.

This includes listening to speech as we try to match the sounds reaching out eardrums to words that we know, and as with other sensations, may reject our first hypthesis in a fraction of a second, perhaps guided by some contextual clues or facial expressions.


What does the number 111 really look like? I drew it to find out…mmm…just writing 111 is a bit simpler – a shorthand indeed.

I get confused reading a date that only consists of numbers, especially when 02/03/2023 means the 2 mar in the UK and 3 of feb in the US. So I’ve taken to writing days and months in lower case with just three letters making a nice contrast with the tall numbers e.g. 19:05sun3feb2023 or if you have a bit of space 19:05 sun 3 feb 2023 You can reverse the order, so 2023feb3sun19:05, or spaced 2023 feb 3 sun 19:05 We’re lucky that we can convey all days and months with just the first three letters.

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