The Human Era

Posted by Byron Pendason on , in Politics

In 1993, the Italian-American scientist Cesare Emiliani proposed the Holocene Calendar, a simple reform to our current calendar: adding 10,000 years to the Common Era (also known as the Gregorian Calendar) year that is the dominant calendar of the world. The reason is that the vast majority of Human development and civilization took place before the beginning of the Common Era. It’s difficult to grasp the scale of this history- actually stretching back into prehistory- with our current system. Take the famous city of Jericho, for example. It’s history stretches back to about 9,000 BCE. To figure out how long ago that was, you have to add 9,000 to our current year (2022), and then subtract 1 (because there is no year 0 in the Gregorian Calendar). Let’s now take that same year and convert it to this calendar, and we get 1000 HE1. Consider that it’s currently 12,022, and it’s easy to figure out in an instant that’s about 11,000 years ago. Our brains are likely to do the math for us subconsciously, whereas with the Common Era most of us have to consciously do the math to figure out how long ago it was.

The more common terminology for the Holocene Era today seems to be the Human Era, and this is what I prefer. There’s a couple reasons. First, the Holocene Epoch as a geological era has more recently been determined to have begun in about 9,700 BCE, that is in 301 HE on the Human Era calendar. That’s like beginning United States history in the late 1400s, rather than in the late 1700s when the USA became a nation. But there is a more fundamental reason that I prefer referring to it as the Human Era over the Holocene Era.

The Common Era numbering of years has removed the Christian language from the Gregorian calendar, but it remains centered on the birth of the Christian god2. It may be a miscalculation of the birth of Christ, but it remains based around Christian history. Much of the history of humanity comes before the beginning of the Common Era. The Neolithic Age, which began with humanity transitioning from nomadic hunter-gatherers to settling down in their first settlements, began around 10,000 BCE. That’s 10,000 years of archaeology and history that you have to count backwards towards in our current system.

The Human Era calendar begins with the beginning of the Neolithic Age. 10,000 BCE is year 0 of the Human Era (Yes, the Holocene Calendar actually has a year 0). It is, therefore, a celebration of human civilization. Not Western civilization, which has spread it’s calendar across the globe through genocide and colonialism, but the civilization of humanity itself, beginning when we took our first steps from being a part of nature to beginning our mastery of the wilds around us that still threatens to kill us from time to time. The Human Era is a better fit for the pluralist values that most pagans and humanists today hold than the Common Era does.

It’s not perfect, by any means. Some human accomplishments, such as the use of primitive tools (the oldest known examples date to about 2.6 million years ago), predates the Human Era, and the oldest human building ruins- a wall inside a cave in Greece that is thought to have been built to protect humans from the wind- dates to about 1000 BHE (though other than this wall, the oldest human made buildings date to the early years of the Human Era in Turkey). But most human accomplishments (the vast majority of Human accomplishments), starting with the earliest known human settlements (about 11,000 years ago), will fall within the Human Era3.

To convert from the Common Era to the Human Era is easy. For years that are greater than or equal to 1 CE, add 10,000. That’s right, it’s as simple as adding a 1 to the front of the 4 digit form of the year (from 0001 to beyond the current year, 2022). The current year is 12022 HE, and the United Nations was founded in 11945 HE. For years in the BCE range of years, subtract the BCE year number (as a positive number) from 10,001 (in order to account for the numbers counting backwards and there being no year 0 in the Gregorian Calendar). So let’s take the year 430 BCE, which some historians see as the beginning of history4. 430 BCE is equivalent to 9571 HE5, because 10,001-430=9,571.

I’m personally considering making the Human Era the calendar era for my personal praxis, and I’m becoming a proponent of switching to the Human Era6 for international purposes (such as for the UN and WHO). While it may make sense for the West to use the Common Era, with Christianity being deeply intertwined with our history, I don’t think it makes sense for it to be the global standard when only a third of the World’s population are Christian. So, I humbly suggest that now is the time to change the international standard from the Christian calendar to the Human Era.

Welcome to the 121st century.

  1. Actually, 9,000 BCE translates to 1,001 HE, but since it’s a rounded number anyways, 1,000 HE will do to demonstrate the point. 

  2. Or, depending upon your perspective, their demigod. 

  3. It’s around the beginning of the Human Era that I believe the gods gifted humanity with a special something that elevated us from animals to humans. I don’t believe this is the first time the gods blessed us, obviously, but this is when we see a lot of transitions for humanity. Which is why archaeologists have a special designation for the beginning of the Human Era that lasts for several thousand years, known as the Neolithic Age. 

  4. The reason for this is because Herodotus wrote his Histories in this year, so these historians count everything before 430 BCE as prehistory. It would probably be more accurate, though, to call it the beginning of Western History, as we have written records from long before this in other parts of the world, like Egypt and the Middle East. Prehistory is often considered as ending in Egypt, for example, in 3200 BCE. 

  5. Think about that for a moment. The beginning of Western Civilization is 9,571 years into the Human Era. It’s kind of humbling, and puts Western Civilization into the context of the greater arc of human civilization. 

  6. To reflect my new status as a Human Era proponent, I’ve made a few small changes to my Anglo-Saxon Calendar page. Most noticeably, the Human Era year is now in the title along with the CE year, and all the rest of the dates on the page have the years specified as CE.