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(15 billion years ago to 3,000 BC)

15-12 billion years ago

origins of the universe

4.5 billion years ago

HADEAN Time: origins of solar system


origins of earth



PRECAMBRIAN EON (4 billion to 540 million years ago)

4 billion years ago

ARCHEAN Eon (4-2.5 billion years ago): origins of unicellular life, bacteria, algae

2.5 billion years ago

PROTEROZOIC Eon (2.5-0.6 billion years ago): origins of first multicellular organisms, coral, worms, jellyfish


570 million years ago

Precambrian Ice Age


(includes Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras)
(540 million years ago to the present)

(includes Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian Periods) (540-245 million years ago)

Cambrian Period (540-505 million years ago)

540 million years ago



Ordovician Period (505-438 million years ago)

505 million years ago

fossils of oldest fish in Early Ordovician Period

land plant spores

Silurian Period (438-408 million years ago)

438 million years ago

early land animals, fish with jaws, land plants

Devonian Period (408-360 million years ago)

408 million years ago

insects, amphibians, forests, fish with fins

Carboniferous Period (360-286 million years ago)

360 million years ago

Mississippian and Pennsylvanian periods: swamps, plant remains that would eventually become coal

Permian Period (286-245 million years ago)

286 million years ago

final formation of supercontinent PANGAEA
mass extinctions (e.g. trilobites) toward the end of the Permian Period


(Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, 245-66 million years ago)

Triassic Period (245-208 million years ago)

245 million years ago

early dinosaurs

earliest mammals


Jurassic Period (208-144 million years ago)

208 million years ago

continental drift, Pangaea begins to break apart into Laurasia and Gondwana toward the end of the Jurassic

Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus), large, plant-eating dinosaurs of the late Jurassic


Cretaceous Period (144-66 million years ago)

144 million years ago

100 million years ago
  further continental drift, begins formation of modern continents

90 million years ago

Argentinosaur, largest land animal (80 ton, 120 ft long)

88 million years ago

Madagascar splits from India

Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, Triceratops


(includes Tertiary and Quaternary Periods)
(66 million years ago to the present)

Tertiary Period
(includes Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene and Pliocene Epochs)
(66-1.6 million years ago)

66 million years ago

asteroid (10-20 mile diameter) impact?

extinction of the dinosaurs and other land animals heavier than 25 kg.

62 million years ago

origin of lemurs

34 million years ago
  separation of Antarctica from South America, begins formation of Antarctic ice

6 million years ago

Separation of Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea by geologic activity
Messinian Salinity Crisis--evaporation of Mediterranean Sea

climate change, drier conditions, loss of forests in Africa

5.8-5.2 million years ago

oldest human ancestor, Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba, hominid fossil remains at Middle Awash, Ethiopia
5 million years ago
  significant closing of gap between North and South America, increasing salinity of the Atlantic, cooler and drier weather in Africa
  oldest mammoth remains, North Africa, 4.8 million years ago

4.4 million years ago

Ardipithecus ramidus, hominid fossil remains at Aramis, Ethiopia

4 million years ago

bipedal hominids, genus Australopithecus

Lake Turkana (Kenya) fossils, Australopithecus anamensis

3.6 million years ago

Laetoli (Tanzania) footprints, Australopithecus afarensis

3.5 million years ago
  rise of Isthmus of Panama, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans separated, further salinity increases in Atlantic waters, continuing cooler and drier weather trend in Africa

3.18 million years ago

"Lucy" fossil remains in Ethiopia, Australopithecus afarensis

3 million years ago

formation of Arctic polar ice cap

drier and cooler Africa, further deforestation

Australopithecus africanus, larger brains, more complex human social organization and modes of subsistence, development of meat eating

2.6 million years ago

oldest known stone tools (Gona, Ethiopia); beginnings of PALEOLITHIC (Old Stone Age)

2.5 million years ago

genus Homo (Homo rudolfensis, Homo habilis)

1.8 million years ago

Homo erectus, Homo ergaster


Quaternary Period
(includes Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs)
(1.6 million years ago to the present)

1.6 million years ago

begins PLEISTOCENE Epoch (1.6 million to 10,000 years ago); cooling climate, Ice Age

  Saber-toothed tigers (Smilodon californicus) in America, 4-5 feet long, 450 pounds, 7 inch fangs, extinct by 10,000 years ago, remains in La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles
  Mammoths (13-feet tall, 6-8 tons) in Europe, America, Asia and Africa, origins 4.8 million years ago (diverged from African elephants about 6 million years ago), dying out by end of Ice Age, extinct by 3,500 years ago, except for dwarf species in Wrangel Island (Russia) survived till 1,500 BC.
1 million years ago
  Gigantopithecus (10-foot tall, 1200-pound ape) in southeast Asia, extinct by 100,000 years ago
  Java Man (Homo erectus in southeast Asia)

800,000 years ago

earliest known evidence of human cannibalism in caves at Gran Dolina, Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain), Homo antecessor, oldest European hominid

archaic Homo in Africa and western Europe, Homo antecessor (800,000 years ago), Homo heidelbergensis (500,000 years ago), likely ancestors of Neanderthals

300,000 years ago

origins of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) in western Europe (extinct by 28,000 years ago). Mousterian culture, flint tools

160,000 years ago

oldest fossils of modern humans, Homo sapiens idaltu (Herto, Afar Valley, Ethiopia)

150,000 years ago

Neanderthals widespread in Europe and Asia (150,000-35,000 years ago)

120,000 years ago
  evidence of Neanderthal cannibalism, Moula Guercy, France

100,000 years ago

modern Homo sapiens in Omo, Ethiopia

50,000 years ago

Cro-Magnon people migrate out of Africa

  beginnings of brain lateralization, symbolic thought, language ability

35,000 years ago

Cro-Magnon people (35,000-10,000 years ago) in Dordogne (France)

beginnings of migrations of humans from Asia to America across the Bering Strait

32,000 years ago

Chauvet Pont-d'Arc cave paintings (32,000-30,000 years ago), France

28,000 years ago

Neanderthals extinct

27,000 years ago

Venus of Willendorf figurines (27,000-20,000 years ago)

15,000 years ago
  begins MESOLITHIC Age
  Lascaux cave paintings, France
  Altamira cave paintings, Spain
13,000 years ago
  oldest Native American petroglyphs
  Younger Dryas ("Big Freeze") -- glacial weather in Northern Hemisphere, ending about 11,500 years ago

11,000 - 10,000 years ago

end of Pleistocene Epoch and Ice Age; beginnings of HOLOCENE Epoch


beginnings of NEOLITHIC AGE


Neolithic Age (10,000-3,000 years ago)

11,000 - 10,000 years ago (9,000 - 8,000 BC)
  End of Ice Age, beginnings of Neolithic Age
  invention of agriculture, cultivation of plants and domestication of animals in southwestern Asia
8,000 - 7,000 BC
  walled town, Jericho

7,000 BC

agriculture and villages in Mesopotamia

6,500 BC

use of copper in Anatolia (Turkey)

earliest evidence of religious practices: fertility cults, goddess figures at Çatal Huyuk (Turkey)

5,000 BC

Great Flood, formation of the Black Sea

Sumerians (5,000-2,000 BC) in Mesopotamia

4,000 BC

Sumerian city of Eridu (before 4,000 BC)

3,300 BC

invention of writing by Sumerians in Mesopotamia, wheel, plows
3,000 BC

end of prehistoric period

Prehistory ( 15 billion years ago to 3,000 BC)

Antiquity (3000 BC to 476 BC)

The Middle Ages (476 BC to 1450 AD)

The Renaissance (1450 - 1650)

The Enlightenment ( 1650 - 1770)

Romanticism (1770 - 1832)

The Realist Age (1832 - 1880)

Modernism (1880-1950)

Postmodernism (1950 - present)


Last updated: 08/14/2006


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