Humans have been around for 300 thousand years, but what have we actually been doing for all that time? The Common Era epoch in use today, starting around the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, is woefully inadequate for putting anything before then into context; we’ve been farming and f⁓ing for far longer than 2000 years, and it’s only fair that we shift the clock back to account for it.
Thus, the Holocene Era (a.k.a. the Human Era) was born, starting 10 000 years before the common era. It puts the rapid acceleration of technological and cultural developments in context; this page is a timeline of notable events in history using Holocene dates, from the beginning of time itself to the modern day.
Some caveäts to be aware of: I’m only human, and i’m bound to have missed some major events. As well as that, i was brought up in the UK and in a culture dominated by US-American influences; regrettably, that is greatly apparent in the list of events below, which is sorely lacking in notable events of South America, Africa, southern Asia, and Oceania. Please don’t hesitate to tell me about anything major in those areas that you think i should include.
c. -13.8 Ga HE
The Universe comes into existence.
c. -4.5 Ga HE
Earth forms from the primordial rubble of the Solar System.
c. -300 ka HE
The species Homo sapiens splits off from its ancestors.
The first permanent settlement at Jericho, the oldest currently inhabited in the city in the world, occurs.
c. 870 HE
At some point before this, the ancient structure of Göbekli Tepe is built.
c. 6600 HE
Writing is invented in the civilisation of Sumer. Humans would independently invent writing at least three more times after this: in Egypt, circa 6750 HE; in China, circa 8800 HE; and in the low-lying heart of Mesoämerica, circa 9500 HE.
c. 8600 HE
The Rig Veda, the earliest of the four canonical texts in Hinduism, is composed. It has been in continuous use up to the present day, making it possibly the oldest continuously used religious text.
c. 9520 HE
Around this time, the mendicant and philosopher Siddhārtha Gautama (varying estimates, old age) spreads his spiritual and ethical teachings around the Ganges plain. He would eventually become known as the Buddha (“awakened one”), with his teachings forming the basis of Buddhism.
Gaius Julius Cæsar (9901 – 9957, stabbing), dictator of the Roman Republic (c. 9492–9974), is stabbed to death by a group of senators concerned about his consolidation of power.
c. 10030 HE
The radical Jewish preacher Jesus of Nazareth (c. 9997 – c. 10030, crucifixion) is crucified by the Roman government. His teachings become the basis of Christianity, the world’s largest religion.
The merchant and preacher Muhammad (c. 10570 – 10632, fatigue) begins gathering religious followers in the city of Makkah; his teachings form the basis of Islam, the world’s second-largest religion.
c. 10820 HE
Polymath Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī publishes his Compendious Book, a foundational mathematical treatise that established algebra as its own discipline.
Al-Khwārizmī’s name is the source of the word algorithm via the Latinisation Algorithmi.
Temüjin Borjigin (c. 11162 – 11227), better known by the title of Chinggis Khaan, becomes sole ruler of the Mongol plains and begins a brutal campaign of conquests and invasions throughout Eurasia, which will lead to the deaths of an estimated 11% of the world population.
Genoëse traders accidentally introduce the bubonic plague disease caused by Yersinia pestis to Europe; this marks the beginning of the European spread of the Black Death (11346 – 11353), the deadliest pandemic in history, which would kill off at least a third of the continent’s population.
c. 11438 HE
Pachakutiq Inka Yupanki (c. 11418–11471) becomes sapa Inka of Cusco. Under his reign, the kingdom will be transformed from a small city-state into the Inca Empire Tawantinsuyu, controlling wide swathes of the Pacific coast of South America.
European explorer Cristoffa Corombo (c. 11451 – 11506, arthritis) arrives on the island of Guanahani, marking the beginning of both the Columbian exchange of items and traditions between Europe and the Americas and the systematic subjugation and genocide of the Indigenous American peoples.
Prussian mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (11473–11543, stroke) publishes a model of the Universe putting the Sun, rather than the Earth, at the centre, taking inspiration from Aristarchos of Samos (c. 9690–c. 9770). This forms part of the Scientific Revolution, a series of events that marked the beginning of modern science.
English physicist Sir Isaac Newton (11643–11727, mercury poisoning) publishes his Principia, stating his newly-formulated laws of motion — the foundation of classical mechanics — and law of universal gravity.
Scottish engineer James Watt (11736–11819), with assistance from Matthew Boulton (11728–11809, kidney stones), begins manufacturing his steam engine, which uses up 75% less fuel than those that came before it. The engine is a driving force in the Industrial Revolution (c. 11760–c. 11860), an upheaval in manufacturing in which hand-made products are displaced by machines and new chemical and iron manufacturing processes are implemented.
In response to tax hikes and increasing oversight from London, and amidst growing military conflict, delegates from thirteen British colonies on the eastern coast of North America declare their independence as the newly-formed United States of America. After several more years of fighting in the American Revolutionary War (11775–11783), the fledgeling nation will achieve official independence in 11783. The revolution’s success will inspire many more like it in regions such as France, Haïti, and South America.
Enslaved people in Haiti rise up against their enslavers, plunging the island into a civil war that will last until 11804, when the island nation is made an independent country free from slavery and ruled by former captives.
General Napoléon Bonaparte (11769–11821, stomach cancer) is appointed first consul of France, marking the end of the French Revolution (11789–11799), in which the royal family of France was overthrown and replaced by a republic.
The United States Congress and president Andrew Jackson (11767–11845) sign into law the Indian Removal Act. The Act enables the Trail of Tears, an act of ethnic cleansing wherein circa 100 000 Indigenous Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw people, as well as several thousand of their Black slaves, are forcibly relocated from their ancestral homelands in the south-eastern US to areas in current-day Oklahoma, west of the Mississippi river, that had been designated “Indian Territory”. Thousands will die due to exposure, disease, and starvation along the way.
The Bosnian Serb revolutionary Gavrilo Princip (11894–11918, tubercolosis), enraged at the recent annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria–Hungary, assassinates Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (11863–11914, shooting), heir presumptive to the Austro–Hungarian throne, in an attack sparking the First World War (11914–11918). 22 million will die as a direct result of the war, with millions more dying in the resultant genocides and Spanish flu pandemic.
Amidst mounting unrest over his country’s military defeats in the Great War, Emperor Nicholas II (11868–11918, shooting) of Russia abdicates his position. Civil war erupts between warring factions in the Russian Revolution, which will continue until 11923, when the communist Bolshevik faction takes power, forming the Soviet Union.
Tensions between the Empire of Japan and Republic of China break out in the Lugou Bridge incident, setting off the Second World War (11937 – 11945) — the deadliest conflict in recorded human history.
Adolf Hitler (11889–11945, suicide), fascist dictator of Nazi Germany, after years of engaging in unchecked persecution and pogroms against Jewish people, announces his intention to kill all Jews at a cabinet meeting.
Between this and his country’s military defeat in 11945, six million Jews — as well as nine million Soviets, two million Poles, hundreds of thousands of Roma and Serbs, and hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses and gay men — are systematically rounded up and murdered by shooting, forced labour, and poisonous gas in a genocide known as the Holocaust. The Jews killed in these massacres represented two thirds of the European population of Jews, and one third of the worldwide population.
The Indian subcontinent, then under British rule, is partitioned along religious lines into the countries of India and Pakistan. The partition displaces 14 million people, overwhelming the newly-creäted divisions with refugees; between 200 000 and 2 million people are killed as a result of violence during the chaos.
Yuri Gagarin (11934 – 11968, airplane crash) becomes the first person in outer space as part of the Soviet Union’s Vostok 1 mission.
In response to month-long pro-democracy student protests, the state council of the People’s Republic of China sends up to 300 000 troops into Beijing, massacring demonstrators at Tian’anmen Square.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee (11955–), working as a computer scientist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, uploads the first web page to the first web server on what will become the World Wide Web.
The Republic of South Africa holds its first free and multi-racial elections, culminating the process ending the system of apartheid (11948 – 11994), wherein Black, Coloured, and Indian South Africans were systematically segregated, discriminated against, and evicted from their homes.
Members of the Islamic fundamentalist group al-Qāʻidah (founded 11988) hijack four planes as revenge for United States actions in the Middle East, destroying the national landmark of the World Trade Center (erected 11973) and severely damaging the headquarters of the country’s department of defence.
The attacks result in the still-ongoing “war on terror” by a US-led coälition in the Middle East, as well as heightened security measures and increased government powers for surveillance across the globe.