Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: April 25, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963893 | Print ISBN: 9781412958783 | Online ISBN: 9781412963893| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Summer Rupper & Teagan Tomlin
THE HOLOCENE, DERIVED from the Greek words holos and kainos meaning “entirely recent,” covers the most recent unit of geologic time. Marked by a major shift in climatic conditions, it spans the last 11,550 calendar years before present to the present time. The prior epoch, the Pleistocene, was characterized by large swings in climate between cold (glacial) conditions and warm (interglacial) conditions. In contrast to the instability of the Pleistocene climate, the Holocene climate is far more stable and warm. This mild climate coincides with the Mesolithic period and the development of human technology, and is thought to play a key, supporting role in the advancement of human civilization. Despite the generally mild climate, paleoclimate proxies (indicators of past climate) show that climate fluctuations lasting for hundreds to thousands of years did occur during the Holocene, albeit smaller amplitude changes than during the Pleistocene. Scientists use paleoclimate proxies such as ...