Happy 12,017 Human Era!
For many of us today is 1 January 2017 AD or CE. AD stands for Anno Domini – the year of our Lord – and is a direct reference to how many years after Jesus Christ was born.
Naming years linked to years of a particular reign of a monarch or emperor was very common throughout history. It was Charlemagne who was responsible for creating the concept of AD. In the year that we now refer to as 800 AD he instituted the concept of Anno Domini, which was conveniently the year in which he had himself crowned Holy Roman Emperor.
The naming convention stuck and as Europeans moved into the rest of the world from the 1500s onwards the convention of a calendar linked to the number of years after the birth of Jesus was spread to non Christian and non European countries. Much of the Muslim world partially uses a different dating convention – linked to the birth of Mohammed – and countries such as Japan still refer to years from the start of the reign of the Emperor. We are currently in the year 1438 AH – Anno Hegirae – according to the Muslim calendar and the year Heisei 29 according to the Japanese calendar. Much of the world has, however, moved to the concept of CE – which is Common Era. This is identical to the Anno Domini calendar, but makes no direct reference to Christianity.
The problem with this naming system is that it relegates the years prior to AD as either BC – Before Christ- or BCE – Before Common Era, and these numbers are negative numbers: the calendar is literally counting down to the special event of the birth of Christ. This diminishes the importance of the years prior to the birth of Christ.
Recently some people have been calling for the the concept of using the calendar from 10,000 BCE onwards. 10,000 BCE is important as it is generally considered the beginning of the agricultural revolution which, in turn, created much of what we now think of as civilisation in human history.
By this calendar we are now in the year 12,017 which is 10,000 years of Before Common Era plus 2017 years of Common Era. What is neat about the calendar is that it remains very easy to calculate the current year but also puts the rest of history into a better historical context.