The Holocene corresponds with the rapid proliferation, growth and impacts of the human species
worldwide, including all of its written history
, technological revolutions
, development of major civilizations
, and overall significant transition towards urban living
in the present. The human impact on modern-era Earth
and its ecosystems
may be considered of global significance for the future evolution of living species, including approximately synchronous lithospheric
evidence, or more recently hydrospheric
evidence of the human impact. In July 2018, the International Union of Geological Sciences
split the Holocene epoch into three distinct subsections, Greenlandian
(11,700 years ago to 8,200 years ago), Northgrippian
(8,200 years ago to 4,200 years ago) and Meghalayan
(4,200 years ago to the present), as proposed by International Commission on Stratigraphy
The boundary stratotype
of the Meghalayan is a speleothem
in Mawmluh cave
and the global auxiliary stratotype is an ice core
from Mount Logan
The word is formed from two Ancient Greek
(ὅλος) is the Greek word for "whole". "Cene" comes from the Greek word kainos
(καινός), meaning "new". The concept is that this epoch is "entirely new".
The suffix '-cene' is used for all the seven epochs of the Cenozoic
It is accepted by the International Commission on Stratigraphy
that the Holocene started approximately 11,650 cal
The Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy deprecates the term 'Recent' as an alternative to Holocene; it also observes that the term Flandrian, derived from marine transgression
sediments on the Flanders coast of Belgium, has been used as a synonym for 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 Devensian in Britain,
and the Otiran in New Zealand.
The Holocene can be subdivided into five time intervals, or chronozones
, based on climatic fluctuations:
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
. This is a classification of climatic periods initially defined by plant remains in peat mosses
Though the method was once thought to be of little interest, based on 14
C dating of peats that was inconsistent with the claimed chronozones,
investigators have found a general correspondence across Eurasia
and North America
. 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 final pre-Holocene oscillations of the last glacial period and then classify climates of more recent prehistory
have not defined any faunal stages
for the Holocene. If subdivision is necessary, periods of human technological development, such as the Mesolithic
, 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 world.
According to some scholars, a third division, the Anthropocene
, has now begun.
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’ (a term coined by Paul J. Crutzen
and Eugene Stoermer in 2000) is not a formally defined geological unit. The Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy of the International Commission on Stratigraphy
has a working group to determine whether it should be. In May 2019, members of the working group voted in favour of recognizing the Anthropocene as formal chrono-stratigraphic unit, with stratigraphic signals around the mid-twentieth century C.E. as its base. The exact criteria have still to be decided upon, after which the recommendation also has to be approved by the working group's parent bodies (ultimately the International Union of Geological Sciences).
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 and another 30 m in the later part of the Holocene. In addition, many areas above about 40 degrees north
latitude had been depressed by the weight of the Pleistocene glaciers and rose as much as 180 m (590 ft) due to post-glacial rebound
over the late Pleistocene and Holocene, and are still rising today.
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
. Other than higher-latitude temporary marine incursions associated with glacial depression, 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 origin.
Post-glacial rebound in the Scandinavia
region resulted in a decreasing Baltic Sea
. The region continues to rise, still causing weak earthquakes
across Northern Europe. The equivalent event in North America was the rebound of Hudson Bay
, as it shrank from its larger, immediate post-glacial Tyrrell Sea
phase, to near its present boundaries.
Compared to the preceding cold period (Glaciation), climate has been relatively 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 date.
The 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.
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 1,000 and 500 years that may correspond to solar activity variations during the Holocene epoch.
A 1,500-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
, saber-toothed cats
, 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 blamed by some on the Clovis
people, who vanished at the same time, though climatic change or a bolide impact
are favored by others.
Throughout the world, ecosystems in cooler climates that were previously regional have been isolated in higher altitude ecological "islands".
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.
Both are followed by the aceramic Neolithic (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
and Pre-Pottery 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.
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