The Holocene is the current geological epoch. It is the latter epoch of the Quaternary period, extending from approximately 11.7 thousand years ago to present times.[1] The Holocene begins at the end of the last major ice age and marks a "warm period" between ice ages.The Holocene is characterized with variable climate changes, from both natural and anthropogenic (human) causes.[2]

Figure 1. The ICS Chronostratigraphic Chart[1]

The Holocene (top left of Figure 1) has also been referred to as the Anthropogene, which means "Age of Man". From a biological viewpoint, "Anthropogene" is a bit of a misnomer. Homo sapiens (or modern humans) became a distinct, established species during the Pleistocene (below the Holocene in Figure 1), the earlier Quaternary epoch. "Age of Man" is used in more of social context, marking the period of time when humans began to have a distinct impact on the environment and begin to establish civilizations.[3] "Anthropocene" has also been used instead of "Holocene" in some instances but, while having the same overall problems and implications as "Anthropogene", it is a little more accurate. The suffix "-cene" is used for geological epochs, which is what the Holocene is and "-gene" is used for geological periods (epochs are subdivisions of periods).[4]

For Further Reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 International Commission on Stratigraphy."International Chronostratigraphic Chart v2018" Accessed Nov.2, 2018 [Online]. Available: http://www.stratigraphy.org/index.php/ics-chart-timescale
  2. University of California Museum of Paleontology."The Holocene Epoch" Accessed Nov.2, 2018 [Online]. Available: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/quaternary/holocene.php
  3. Mayewski, Paul A., Eelco E. Rohling, J. Curt Stager, Wibjörn Karlén, Kirk A. Maasch, L. David Meeker, Eric A. Meyerson et al. "Holocene climate variability." Quaternary research 62, no. 3 (2004): 243-255.
  4. Rull, Valentí. "The “Anthropocene”: neglects, misconceptions, and possible futures: The term “Anthropocene” is often erroneously used, as it is not formally defined yet." EMBO reports (2017): e201744231. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.15252/embr.201744231

Authors and Editors

Celeste Pomerantz, Ashley Sheardown, Jason Donev
Last updated: January 4, 2019
Get Citation