What do we mean by BCE? BCE is shorthand for ‘Before the Common Era’. It basically refers to the same time period as BC (so 2000 BCE=2000 BC), but avoids referencing the Christian calendar. There are many ways that people reckon time and different dates which they use to mark the beginning of calendric time. By using BCE, archaeologists acknowledge that ‘our’ way of reckoning time is just one of many.