Neolithic stone alignments, Carnac, France

Holocene epoch

The Holocene (or Recent) is the current geological epoch which started some 11,500 years ago when the glaciers began to retreat. This retreat marked the end of the glacial phase of the most recent ice age. Its character was set by the spread of forests as the ice retreated and then by their shrinkage as mankind's demand for timber and agricultural land grew. Although we think of the Holocene as a warm time for the planet, we are still in an ice age. This is indicated by the presence of ice caps at the poles - the planet as a whole is just in an interglacial phase.

Began: 11.7 thousand years ago

Ended: Present day

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What the Earth was like

A map of present day Earth

Reconstruction of the Earth in the Holocene epoch, 10,000 years ago - present day. Credit: Dr Ron Blakey, NAU Geology.

Discover more about the Earth's current marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats.

Types of fossils formed in this period

Trace fossils Trace fossils
It's not only the actual bodily remains of dead animals and plants that can become fossils. Things created or left behind by animals can also fossilise, such as their footprints, burrows and dung.