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Episodes 2018; 41(4): 213-223

Published online December 1, 2018


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Formal ratification of the subdivision of the Holocene Series/Epoch (Quaternary System/Period): two new Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points (GSSPs) and three new stages/subseries

Mike Walker1*, Martin J. Head2, Max Berkelhammer3, Svante Björck4, Hai Cheng5, Les Cwynar6, David Fisher7, Vasilios Gkinis8, Antony Long9, John Lowe10, Rewi Newnham11, Sune Olander Rasmussen8, Harvey Weiss12

1School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, Trinity Saint David, University of Wales, Lampeter, Wales SA48 7EJ, UK; Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Wales SY23 3DB, UK; *Corresponding author, E-mail: m.walker@uwtsd.ac.uk
2Department of Earth Sciences, Brock University, 1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way, St. Catharines, Ontario LS2 3A1, Canada
3Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois 60607, USA
4GeoBiosphere Science Centre, Quaternary Sciences, Lund University, Sölveg 12, SE-22362, Lund, Sweden
5Institute of Global Change, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xian, Shaanxi 710049, China; Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
6Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5A3, Canada
7Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa K1N 615, Canada
8Centre for Ice and Climate, The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Julian Maries Vej 30, DK-2100, Copenhagen, Denmark
9Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
10Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham TW20 0EX, UK
11School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington 6012, New Zealand
12School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA

Correspondence to:E-mail: m.walker@uwtsd.ac.uk

Received: August 13, 2018; Revised: September 30, 2018; Accepted: September 30, 2018

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The Holocene is probably the most intensively studied series/epoch within the geological record, and embodies a wide array of geomorphological, climatic, biotic and archaeological evidence; yet little attention has hitherto been paid to a formal subdivision of this series/epoch. Here we report a tripartite division of the Holocene into the Greenlandian, Northgrippian and Meghalayan stages/ages and their corresponding Lower/Early, Middle, Upper/Late subseries/subepochs, each supported by a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP). The GSSP for the lowermost stage, the Greenlandian, is that of the Holocene as previously defined in the NGRIP2 Greenland ice core, and dated at 11,700 yr b2k (before 2000 CE). The GSSP for the Northgrippian is in the NGRIP1 Greenland ice core, and dated at 8236 yr b2k, whereas that for the Meghalayan is located in a speleothem from Mawmluh Cave, Meghalaya, northeast India with a date of 4250 yr b2k. The proposal on which this subdivision is based was submitted by the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, approved by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, and formally ratified by the Executive Committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences on 14th June 2018.