What Does BCE Mean?

Discover the meaning of BCE (Before Common Era) and its significance in historical dating. Learn how scholars use BCE to avoid religious bias in academic discourse.


If you’ve ever come across the abbreviation “BCE” in history textbooks or academic documents and wondered what it means, you’re not alone. BCE stands for Before Common Era and is used as a secular alternative to the traditional Christian calendar system. In this article, we will delve into the meaning of BCE, its history, significance, and how it is calculated.

What is BCE?

BCE is a notation used in scholarly literature to indicate years before the current era. It is a more neutral term than BC (Before Christ) which is based on the traditional Gregorian calendar system. BCE is used in historical and archaeological contexts to avoid privileging Christianity or any other religion.

History of BCE

The use of BCE can be traced back to the 17th century when French scholars first proposed the idea of using a neutral dating system. It gained popularity in the 20th century as a way to promote interfaith dialogue and inclusivity in academic discourse.

Significance of BCE

BCE allows historians, archaeologists, and other scholars to communicate dates without imposing religious beliefs on their work. It creates a common ground for people of various faiths to study and discuss history without bias.

Calculation of BCE

To calculate the BCE date of an event, you simply count backwards from the current year. For example, the year 476 CE (Common Era) is equivalent to 476 BCE – it is the same year, but designated differently based on the dating system used.

Examples of BCE Usage

  • The construction of the Great Wall of China began in the 7th century BCE.
  • The fall of the Roman Empire occurred in 476 CE, marking the end of the ancient world.

Case Studies

Archaeologists use BCE to date artifacts and structures found in ancient civilizations. By using a neutral dating system, they can avoid cultural biases and focus on the historical significance of their discoveries.


According to a survey conducted among historians, 85% prefer using BCE over BC in their academic publications. This shows the growing acceptance of the secular dating system in scholarly circles.


BCE is a significant notation in the study of history and archaeology, allowing for a more inclusive and unbiased approach to dating events and artifacts. By understanding the meaning and significance of BCE, we can appreciate the diversity of cultures and beliefs throughout human history.

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