Formal Subdivision of the Holocene Series/Epoch: A Summary

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The Holocene Series/Epoch is the most recent series/epoch in the geological timescale, spanning the interval from 11,700 yr to the present day. Together with the subadjacent Pleistocene, it comprises the Quaternary System/Period. The Holocene record contains diverse geomorphological, biological, climatological and archaeological evidence, within sequences that are often continuous and extremely well-preserved at decadal, annual and even seasonal resolution. As a consequence, the Holocene is perhaps the most intensively-studied series/epoch within the entire Geological Time Scale. Yet until recently little attention had been paid to a formal subdivision of the Holocene. Here we describe an initiative by the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS) of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) to develop a formal stratigraphical subdivision of the Holocene, with three new stages/ages, two underpinned by Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points (GSSPs in an ice core, and a third in a speleothem. These stages/ages are defined together with their equivalent subseries/subepochs. The new stages/ages are the Greenlandian with its GSSP in the Greenland NGRIP2 ice core and dated at 11,700 yr b2k (before 2000 CE); the Northgrippian with its GSSP in the Greenland NGRIP1 ice core and dated to 8236 yr b2k; and the Meghalayan, with its GSSP in a speleothem from Mawmluh Cave, northeastern India, with a date of 4250 yr b2k. This subdivision was formally ratified by the Executive Committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) on 14 th June 2018.


  • Mike Walker
  • Phil Gibbard
  • Martin J. Head
  • Max Berkelhammer
  • Svante Björck
  • Hai Cheng
  • Les C. Cwynar
  • David Fisher
  • Vasilios Gkinis
  • Antony Long
  • John Lowe
  • Rewi Newnham
  • Sune Olander Rasmussen
  • Harvey Weiss
External organisations
  • Aberystwyth University
  • Brock University
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Xi'an Jiaotong University
  • University of Minnesota system
  • University of New Brunswick
  • University of Ottawa
  • Durham University
  • Royal Holloway University of London
  • Victoria University of Wellington
  • Yale University
  • University of Wales
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Copenhagen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-141
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Geological Society of India
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch