Geological Timeline

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Geological Timescale


Key : ma = million years
Note* Read from bottom of page upwards to follow geological events timeline  

Phanerozoic Eon
(543 ma to present day)
Cenozoic Era
(65 ma-today)

Quaternary (1.8 ma to today)
       Holocene
       (10,000 years to today)


       Pleistocene
       (1.8 ma to 10,000 yrs)

  • Less than 2,000 years ago: Recorded Human History.
  • Iron Age
  • Bronze Age
  • Possible major impact event leading to Great Flood?
  • 10,000 years ago : Modern Man.
  • Upper Paleolithic : Neolithic
    (End of late Stone Age).
  • Holocene Extinction ongoing event during the modern era. Includes plants and large mammals known as megafauna due to the last Ice Age and the proliferation of modern humans.
  • Pleistocene or Ice Age Extinction Event.
  • 12-17,000 yrs ago: End of Little Ice Age.
  • 100,000 yrs ago : Neanderthal Man
  • 300,000 yrs ago : Mesolithic
    (Middle Stone Age).
  • 400,000 yrs ago : Homo Sapiens.
  • 700,000 yrs ago: Homo Erectus.
  • 1,100,000 yrs ago: Worldwide Ice Age ends.
Tertiary (65 to 1.8 ma)
       Pliocene (5.3 to 1.8 ma)
       Miocene (23.8 to 5.3 ma)
       Oligocene (33.7-23.8 ma)
       Eocene (54.8 - 33.7 ma)
       Paleocene (65 - 54.8 ma)
  • Great Ice Age. 1/3 of all land covered by glaciations. Tertiary-Quaternary boundary.
  • Many smaller extinctions. Mainly a series of interglacial events. Sea levels and temperatures rise and fall. Tiny shell-bearing sea creatures lost.
  • 2.5 Ma Homo habilis
    (Paleolithic, Old Stone Age).
  • Early grazing animals including horse.
  • Early primates, cats, dogs, rabbits.
  • Small mammals : rats, mice, squirrels have changed from egg laying to viviparity (placental).
  • Alps form due to collision of the European and African tectonic plates.
Mesozoic Era
(248 to
65 ma)
Cretaceous (144 to 65 ma)

  • 65 Million Years : Dinosaurs became extinct, plus up to 50% of all other species.
  • Cretaceous-Paleogene Transition extinction event:
  • K-T Boundary Layer supports impact theory. Possibly by multiple impacts by disrupted Carbonaceous asteroid or comet broken up in the atmosphere. Possible event sites: Chicxulub Crater, centered on Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Silverpit Crater (North Sea area) UK. & Boltysh Crater, Ukraine.
  • Rocky Mountains form due to tectonic plate collision, and subduction of old seabed.
  • First modern Birds.
  • Primitive marsupial mammals like Kangaroos.
  • Age of Reptiles.
Jurassic (206 to 144 ma)
  • Minor Mass Extinctions linked to an oceanic anoxic event. Ammonoids affected.
  • Pangaea super continent separates.
  • Dinosaurs dominant
  • Early flowering plants.
  • Early birds and primitive mammals.
Triassic (248 to 206 ma)
  • Triassic-Jurassic Transition : Mass extinction : 20-35% lost. Most early dinosaur families, many marine invertebrates and mammal-like reptiles.
  • Fist dinosaurs and first egg-laying mammals.
  • First flying vertebrates, the pterosaurs, (toothed birds).
  • Opening of the Atlantic due to tectonic plate movements.
  • Climate generally hot and dry forming red bed sandstones and evaporites.
  • Polar regions moist and temperate.
  • Adaptive radiation (after mass extinction): rapid evolution diversification of a few species to fill many ecological niches. By natural selection, adaptation or mutation.
Paleozoic Era
(543 to
248 ma)
Permian (290 to 248 ma)

  • P/Tr or Permian-Triassic extinction event. Largest Mass extinction : 95% of all marine life + 70% of land species lost.
  • Theory : Meteorite Impacts affected Earths core and mantle and triggered off Super Volcanism and subsequent Methane release from the oceans.
  • Theory : Oxygen removal from both land and sea. Plus Hydrogen Sulfide toxicity.
  • Theory : Rise and fall of gravity field.
  • Theory: Extinction period came in 3 waves.
  • Theory 1 : Meteorite Impact event in the super ocean Panthalassa or the East Antarctic Ice Sheet Crater (crater 300 miles wide), also crater at Bedout High seabed off Australia.
  • Theory 2: Super volcanism. Massive flood basalt eruptions over thousands of years : Siberian Traps.
  • Theory 3: Methane release over thousands of years from deep oceans after ocean temperatures rise by approx 5°C.
    Recorded changes to carbon isotopes.
  • Advanced conifers.
  • Reptiles, Dragonflies, Roaches, Beetles, Flies.
  • Mammal-like reptiles.
  • Fossils : Trilobites, mollusks, corals and brachiopods.
  • Final assembly of Pangaea.
  • Ice Age: Glaciers cover most of Gondwanaland.
Carboniferous (354 to 290 ma)
       Pennsylvanian
        (323 to 290 ma)

       Mississippian
       (354 to 323 ma)
  • Climate change : glacial periods to warm.
  • Early bark bearing trees including conifers
  • Formation of coal deposits.
  • Low sea levels, swamps and generally warm climate.
  • Age of Plants. Flowerless spore-forming plants and ferns.
  • Amphibians dominant : Large air breathing Insects and Amphibians inhabit Carboniferous swamps.
  • 36% Higher oxygen content in the atmosphere than today, allowing arthropods to grow larger
  • First Sharks and Reptiles.
  • Mississippian: Earth Tectonic Movements produced Supercontinent : Pangea.
Devonian (417 to 354 ma)
  • Devonian-Carboniferous Mass Extinction transition series (lasting over 20Ma) ~ 70% of species lost.
  • Devonian : Ammonites, marine animals, primitive air breathing fish evolved into the first tetrapods (amphibians).
  • First forests.
  • Terrestrial Arthropods: Includes Insects, Arachnids, Crustaceans and others.
  • Age of Fish : Fossils Mainly marine animal life, jawed fish and invertebrates.
Silurian (443 to 417 ma)
  • Extinction event. Theories possibly caused by climate change, low sea levels due to glaciers, changes in ocean mixing and hyper salinity.
  • Primitive vascular land plants.
  • Moss forests, and first soils.
  • Multi-cellular relatives of modern spiders and millipedes.
  • Fish with jaws and air breathing animals.
  • Trilobites abundant then generally in decline.
  • Super continent : Gondwanaland.
Ordovician (490 to 443 ma)
  • Ordovician-Silurian Transition. 85% of species lost. Two extinction events during the Ordovician, devastates marine and reef building organisms, including some Trilobites.
    Possible explanation: onset of glaciation and interglacial periods. Sea levels rose and fell.
  • Early primitive jawless fish.
Cambrian (543 to 490 ma)
        Tommotian
(530-527 ma)
  • Extinction event : Marked fall in carbon-13 isotope. Theory: due to a reduction in bacteria, temporarily out-competed by new multicelluar biomass organisms.
  • Hard bodied shelly fauna: Arthropods known as Trilobites, and primitive reef-forming animals.
  • Invertebrates dominant; worms, jellyfish, trilobites.
  • Multi-celled life forms start to take hold.
    "ancient life"
Precambrian
(4,500 to 543 ma)
Proterozoic Era
(2500 to
543 ma)

Neoproterozoic (900 to 543 ma)
      Ediacaran (630 to 543 ma)
      Cryogenian (630-850ma)

      Tonian (850 to 1000 ma)

  • First great extinction event : 70% of all organic lost.
    Radiation of acritarchs
    (possibly due to major impact event).
  • Volcanic Activity released huge quantities of carbon dioxide and methane over 1,000+ years, Greenhouse effect ends Ice Age.
  • Severe Ice Age (Snowball Earth/Cryogenian Period), ice sheets extend to equator.
  • 750Ma Rhodinia super continent broke up.
  • Multi-cellular life, including earliest animals.
  • "visible life" Early shelled organisms.
Mesoproterozoic
(1600 to 900 ma)
  • Explosion of bio diversity.
  • Evolution of sexual reproduction.
  • Accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere.
  • Formation of super continent : Rhodinia
  • 1.5Ma Columbia super continent broke up.
Paleoproterozoic
(2500 to 1600 ma)

Early Oxidizing Atmosphere
  • Cyanobacteria: Blue-green algae & Stromatolytes giving off oxygen lead to evolution of Earths early primitive oxidizing atmosphere.
  • 2.5Ma Kenorland super continent broke up.
  • Oxygen Catastrophe : atmosphere becomes poisonous to anaerobic bacteria.
Archaean Era
(3800 to
2500 ma)

Archeozic


Reducing Atmosphere

  • "earlier life" earliest fossils : Stromatolytes start to produce oxygen as by product of early photosynthesis.
  • Anaerobic single celled micro-organisms: bacteria & viruses flourish in Earths early reducing atmosphere.
  • 2.8Ma super continent : Vaalbara broke up.

Hadean Era
(4600 to
3800 ma)

Azoic Time : No Atmosphere

Formation of the moon probably by giant impact. Largest hit Earth has ever suffered.

Planetary accretions during the formation of Solar System.
approx 4.6 to 3.8 Billion years ago.

  • Azoic Rocks, (no organic life forms).
  • 3.8 billion years : banded iron beds, Greenland.
  • No atmosphere.
  • Formation of Earths Crust.
  • Zircon crystals date from 4440 Ma.
  • Meteorite bombardment. Oldest meteorites found ~ 4.6 Billion Years Old.
KEY: ma = million years

Our Beautiful Earth!

Geological Timescale

*Note the Hadean and Archaean Eras would stretch down the page for many metres.

Free Printable Resource from www. totallydifferent.co.uk

Accuracy of timeline is open to individual interpretation. Use only after checking facts yourself.

Credit given to Wikipedia.




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