Geologic time scale
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The geologic time scale is a system of chronological measurement that relates stratigraphy to time, and is used by geologists, paleontologists, and other earth scientists to describe the timing and relationships between events that have occurred throughout Earth's history. The table of geologic time spans presented here agrees with the dates and nomenclature set forth by the International Commission on Stratigraphy standard colour codes of the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
Evidence from radiometric dating indicates that the Earth is about 4.54 billion years old. The geology or deep time of Earth's past has been organized into various units according to events which took place in each period. Different spans of time on the GTS are usually delimited by changes in the composition of strata which correspond to them, indicating major geological or paleontological events, such as mass extinctions. For example, the boundary between the Cretaceous period and the Paleogene period is defined by the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, which marked the demise of the dinosaurs and many other groups of life. Older time spans which predate the reliable fossil record (before the Proterozoic Eon) are defined by absolute age.
|Segments of rock ( strata) in chronostratigraphy||Periods of time in geochronology||Notes|
||4 total, half a billion years or more|
||10 total, several hundred million years|
||tens of millions of years|
||millions of years|
||smaller than an age/stage, not used by the ICS timescale|
The largest defined unit of time is the supereon, composed of eons. Eons are divided into eras, which are in turn divided into periods, epochs and ages. The terms eonothem, erathem, system, series, and stage are used to refer to the layers of rock that correspond to these periods of geologic time in earth's history.
Geologists qualify these units as Early, Mid, and Late when referring to time, and Lower, Middle, and Upper when referring to the corresponding rocks. For example, the Lower Jurassic Series in chronostratigraphy corresponds to the Early Jurassic Epoch in geochronology. The adjectives are capitalized when the subdivision is formally recognized, and lower case when not; thus "early Miocene" but "Early Jurassic."
Geologic units from the same time but different parts of the world often look different and contain different fossils, so the same period was historically given different names in different locales. For example, in North America the Lower Cambrian is called the Waucoban series that is then subdivided into zones based on succession of trilobites. In East Asia and Siberia, the same unit is split into Alexian, Atdabanian, and Botomian stages. A key aspect of the work of the International Commission on Stratigraphy is to reconcile this conflicting terminology and define universal horizons that can be used around the world.
History and nomenclature of the time scale
In Ancient Greece, Aristotle saw that fossil seashells from rocks were similar to those found on the beach and inferred that the fossils were once part of living animals. He reasoned that the positions of land and sea had changed over long periods of time. Leonardo da Vinci concurred with Aristotle's view that fossils were the remains of ancient life.
The 11th-century Persian geologist Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and the 13th century Dominican bishop Albertus Magnus (Albert of Saxony) extended Aristotle's explanation into a theory of a petrifying fluid. Avicenna also first proposed one of the principles underlying geologic time scales, the law of superposition of strata, while discussing the origins of mountains in The Book of Healing in 1027. The Chinese naturalist Shen Kuo (1031–1095) also recognized the concept of ' deep time'.
The principles underlying geologic (geological) time scales were later laid down by Nicholas Steno in the late 17th century. Steno argued that rock layers (or strata) are laid down in succession, and that each represents a "slice" of time. He also formulated the law of superposition, which states that any given stratum is probably older than those above it and younger than those below it. While Steno's principles were simple, applying them to real rocks proved complex. Over the course of the 18th century geologists realized that:
- Sequences of strata were often eroded, distorted, tilted, or even inverted after deposition;
- Strata laid down at the same time in different areas could have entirely different appearances;
- The strata of any given area represented only part of the Earth's long history.
The first serious attempts to formulate a geological time scale that could be applied anywhere on Earth were made in the late 18th century. The most influential of those early attempts (championed by Abraham Werner, among others) divided the rocks of the Earth's crust into four types: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Quaternary. Each type of rock, according to the theory, formed during a specific period in Earth history. It was thus possible to speak of a "Tertiary Period" as well as of "Tertiary Rocks." Indeed, "Tertiary" (now Paleocene - Pliocene) and "Quaternary" (now Pleistocene and Holocene) remained in use as names of geological periods well into the 20th century.
The Neptunist theories popular at this time (expounded by Werner) proposed that all rocks had precipitated out of a single enormous flood. A major shift in thinking came when James Hutton presented his Theory of the Earth; or, an Investigation of the Laws Observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land Upon the Globe before the Royal Society of Edinburgh in March and April 1785. It has been said that "as things appear from the perspective of the 20th century, James Hutton in those reading became the founder of modern geology" Hutton proposed that the interior of the Earth was hot, and that this heat was the engine which drove the creation of new rock: land was eroded by air and water and deposited as layers in the sea; heat then consolidated the sediment into stone, and uplifted it into new lands. This theory was dubbed "Plutonist" in contrast to the "Neptunist" flood-oriented theory.
The identification of strata by the fossils they contained, pioneered by William Smith, Georges Cuvier, Jean d'Omalius d'Halloy, and Alexandre Brogniart in the early 19th century, enabled geologists to divide Earth history more precisely. It also enabled them to correlate strata across national (or even continental) boundaries. If two strata (however distant in space or different in composition) contained the same fossils, chances were good that they had been laid down at the same time. Detailed studies between 1820 and 1850 of the strata and fossils of Europe produced the sequence of geological periods still used today.
The process was dominated by British geologists, and the names of the periods reflect that dominance. The "Cambrian", (the classical name for Wales) and the "Ordovician", and "Silurian", named after ancient Welsh tribes, were periods defined using stratigraphic sequences from Wales. The "Devonian" was named for the English county of Devon, and the name "Carboniferous" was simply an adaptation of "the Coal Measures", the old British geologists' term for the same set of strata. The "Permian" was named after Perm, Russia, because it was defined using strata in that region by Scottish geologist Roderick Murchison. However, some periods were defined by geologists from other countries. The "Triassic" was named in 1834 by a German geologist Friedrich Von Alberti from the three distinct layers (Latin trias meaning triad) — red beds, capped by chalk, followed by black shales— that are found throughout Germany and Northwest Europe, called the 'Trias'. The "Jurassic" was named by a French geologist Alexandre Brogniart for the extensive marine limestone exposures of the Jura Mountains. The "Cretaceous" (from Latin creta meaning ' chalk') as a separate period was first defined by Belgian geologist Jean d'Omalius d'Halloy in 1822, using strata in the Paris basin and named for the extensive beds of chalk (calcium carbonate deposited by the shells of marine invertebrates).
British geologists were also responsible for the grouping of periods into Eras and the subdivision of the Tertiary and Quaternary periods into epochs. In 1841 John Phillips published the first global geological time scale based on the types of fossils found in each era. Phillips' scale helped standardize the use of terms like Paleozoic ("old life") which he extended to cover a larger period than it had in previous usage, and Mesozoic ("middle life") which he invented.
When William Smith and Sir Charles Lyell first recognized that rock strata represented successive time periods, time scales could be estimated only very imprecisely since various kinds of rates of change used in estimation were highly variable. While creationists had been proposing dates of around six or seven thousand years for the age of the Earth based on the Bible, early geologists were suggesting millions of years for geologic periods with some even suggesting a virtually infinite age for the Earth. Geologists and paleontologists constructed the geologic table based on the relative positions of different strata and fossils, and estimated the time scales based on studying rates of various kinds of weathering, erosion, sedimentation, and lithification. Until the discovery of radioactivity in 1896 and the development of its geological applications through radiometric dating during the first half of the 20th century (pioneered by such geologists as Arthur Holmes) which allowed for more precise absolute dating of rocks, the ages of various rock strata and the age of the Earth were the subject of considerable debate.
The first geologic time scale that included absolute dates was published in 1913 by the British geologist Arthur Holmes. He greatly furthered the newly created discipline of geochronology and published the world renowned book The Age of the Earth in which he estimated the Earth's age to be at least 1.6 billion years.
In 1977, the Global Commission on Stratigraphy (now the International Commission on Stratigraphy) started an effort to define global references known as GSSP ( Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Point)s for geologic periods and faunal stages. The commission's most recent work is described in the 2004 geologic time scale of Gradstein et al. A UML model for how the timescale is structured, relating it to the GSSP, is also available.
Condensed graphical timelines
The following four timelines show the geologic time scale. The first shows the entire time from the formation of the Earth to the present, but this compresses the most recent eon. Therefore the second scale shows the most recent eon with an expanded scale. Finally, the second scale again compresses the most recent era, so the latest era is expanded in the third scale. Since the Quaternary is a very short period with short epochs, it is expanded in the fourth scale. The second, third, and fourth timelines are therefore each subsections of their preceding timeline as indicated by asterisks. The Holocene (the latest epoch) is too small to be shown clearly on the third timeline, another reason for expanding the fourth scale.
The Holocene, or "Recent" (the latest epoch) is too short to be shown clearly on this timeline to the right of the Pleistocene (P) epoch. Q stands for the Quaternary period.
Table of geologic time
The following table summarizes the major events and characteristics of the periods of time making up the geologic time scale. As above, this time scale is based on the International Commission on Stratigraphy. (See lunar geologic timescale for a discussion of the geologic subdivisions of Earth's moon.) This table is arranged with the most recent geologic periods at the top, and the most ancient at the bottom. The height of each table entry does not correspond to the duration of each subdivision of time.
The content of the table is based on the current official geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, with the epoch names altered to the early/late format from lower/upper as recommended by the ICS when dealing with chronostratigraphy.
|Supereon||Eon||Era||Period||Epoch||Age||Major events||Start, million years ago|
chrons: Subatlantic · Subboreal · Atlantic · Boreal · Preboreal
|Quaternary Ice Age recedes, and the current interglacial begins; rise of human civilization. Sahara forms from savannah, and agriculture begins. Stone Age cultures give way to Bronze Age (3300 BC) and Iron Age (1200 BC), giving rise to many pre-historic cultures throughout the world. Little Ice Age ( stadial) causes brief cooling in Northern Hemisphere from 1400 to 1850. Following the Industrial Revolution, Atmospheric CO2 levels rise from around 280 parts per million volume (ppmv) to the current level of 390 ppmv.||0.0117|
|Pleistocene||Upper (locally Tarantian · Tyrrhenian · Eemian · Sangamonian)||Flourishing and then extinction of many large mammals ( Pleistocene megafauna). Evolution of anatomically modern humans. Quaternary Ice Age continues with glaciations and interstadials (and the accompanying fluctuations from 100 to 300 ppmv in atmospheric CO2 levels), further intensification of Icehouse Earth conditions, roughly 1.6 Ma. Last glacial maximum (30000 years ago), last glacial period (18000–15000 years ago). Dawn of human stone-age cultures, with increasing technical complexity relative to previous ice age cultures, such as engravings and clay statues (e.g. Venus of Lespugue), particularly in the Mediterranean and Europe. Lake Toba supervolcano erupts 75000 years before present, causing a volcanic winter that pushes humanity to the brink of extinction. Pleistocene ends with Oldest Dryas, Older Dryas/ Allerød and Younger Dryas climate events, with Younger Dryas forming the boundary with the Holocene.||0.126|
|Middle (formerly Ionian)||0.781|
|Neogene||Pliocene||Piacenzian/ Blancan||Intensification of present Icehouse conditions, present (Quaternary) ice age begins roughly 2.58 Ma; cool and dry climate. Australopithecines, many of the existing genera of mammals, and recent mollusks appear. Homo habilis appears.||3.600*|
|Miocene||Messinian||Moderate Icehouse climate, puncuated by ice ages; Orogeny in northern hemisphere. Modern mammal and bird families become recognizable. Horses and mastodons diverse. Grasses become ubiquitous. First apes appear (for reference see the article: " Sahelanthropus tchadensis"). Kaikoura Orogeny forms Southern Alps in New Zealand, continues today. Orogeny of the Alps in Europe slows, but continues to this day. Carpathian orogeny forms Carpathian Mountains in Central and Eastern Europe. Hellenic orogeny in Greece and Aegean Sea slows, but continues to this day. Middle Miocene Disruption occurs. Widespread forests slowly draw in massive amounts of CO2, gradually lowering the level of atmospheric CO2 from 650 ppmv down to around 100 ppmv.||7.246*|
|Paleogene||Oligocene||Chattian||Warm but cooling climate, moving towards Icehouse; Rapid evolution and diversification of fauna, especially mammals. Major evolution and dispersal of modern types of flowering plants||28.1|
|Eocene||Priabonian||Moderate, cooling climate. Archaic mammals (e.g. Creodonts, Condylarths, Uintatheres, etc) flourish and continue to develop during the epoch. Appearance of several "modern" mammal families. Primitive whales diversify. First grasses. Reglaciation of Antarctica and formation of its ice cap; Azolla event triggers ice age, and the Icehouse Earth climate that would follow it to this day, from the settlement and decay of seafloor algae drawing in massive amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, lowering it from 3800 ppmv down to 650 ppmv. End of Laramide and Sevier Orogenies of the Rocky Mountains in North America. Orogeny of the Alps in Europe begins. Hellenic Orogeny begins in Greece and Aegean Sea.||38.0|
|Paleocene||Thanetian||Climate tropical. Modern plants appear; Mammals diversify into a number of primitive lineages following the extinction of the dinosaurs. First large mammals (up to bear or small hippo size). Alpine orogeny in Europe and Asia begins. Indian Subcontinent collides with Asia 55 Ma, Himalayan Orogeny starts between 52 and 48 Ma.||59.2*|
|Mesozoic||Cretaceous||Upper||Maastrichtian||Flowering plants proliferate, along with new types of insects. More modern teleost fish begin to appear. Ammonoidea, belemnites, rudist bivalves, echinoids and sponges all common. Many new types of dinosaurs (e.g. Tyrannosaurs, Titanosaurs, duck bills, and horned dinosaurs) evolve on land, as do Eusuchia ( modern crocodilians); and mosasaurs and modern sharks appear in the sea. Primitive birds gradually replace pterosaurs. Monotremes, marsupials and placental mammals appear. Break up of Gondwana. Beginning of Laramide and Sevier Orogenies of the Rocky Mountains. Atmospheric CO2 close to present-day levels.||72.1 ± 0.2*|
|Campanian||83.6 ± 0.2|
|Santonian||86.3 ± 0.5|
|Coniacian||89.8 ± 0.3|
|Jurassic||Upper||Tithonian||Gymnosperms (especially conifers, Bennettitales and cycads) and ferns common. Many types of dinosaurs, such as sauropods, carnosaurs, and stegosaurs. Mammals common but small. First birds and lizards. Ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs diverse. Bivalves, Ammonites and belemnites abundant. Sea urchins very common, along with crinoids, starfish, sponges, and terebratulid and rhynchonellid brachiopods. Breakup of Pangaea into Gondwana and Laurasia. Nevadan orogeny in North America. Rantigata and Cimmerian Orogenies taper off. Atmospheric CO2 levels 4–5 times the present day levels (1200–1500 ppmv, compared to today's 385 ppmv).||152.1 ± 0.9|
|Kimmeridgian||157.3 ± 1.0|
|Oxfordian||163.5 ± 1.0|
|Middle||Callovian||166.1 ± 1.2|
|Bathonian||168.3 ± 1.3*|
|Bajocian||170.3 ± 1.4*|
|Aalenian||174.1 ± 1.0*|
|Lower||Toarcian||182.7 ± 0.7|
|Pliensbachian||190.8 ± 1.0*|
|Sinemurian||199.3 ± 0.3*|
|Hettangian||201.3 ± 0.2*|
|Triassic||Upper||Rhaetian||Archosaurs dominant on land as dinosaurs, in the oceans as Ichthyosaurs and nothosaurs, and in the air as pterosaurs. Cynodonts become smaller and more mammal-like, while first mammals and crocodilia appear. Dicroidiumflora common on land. Many large aquatic temnospondyl amphibians. Ceratitic ammonoids extremely common. Modern corals and teleost fish appear, as do many modern insect clades. Andean Orogeny in South America. Cimmerian Orogeny in Asia. Rangitata Orogeny begins in New Zealand. Hunter-Bowen Orogeny in Northern Australia, Queensland and New South Wales ends, (c. 260–225 Ma)||c. 208.5|
|Induan||252.2 ± 0.5*|
|Paleozoic||Permian||Lopingian||Changhsingian||Landmasses unite into supercontinent Pangaea, creating the Appalachians. End of Permo-Carboniferous glaciation. Synapsid reptiles (pelycosaurs and therapsids) become plentiful, while parareptiles and temnospondyl amphibians remain common. In the mid-Permian, coal-age flora are replaced by cone-bearing gymnosperms (the first true seed plants) and by the first true mosses. Beetles and flies evolve. Marine life flourishes in warm shallow reefs; productid and spiriferid brachiopods, bivalves, forams, and ammonoids all abundant. Permian-Triassic extinction event occurs 251 Ma: 95% of life on Earth becomes extinct, including all trilobites, graptolites, and blastoids. Ouachita and Innuitian orogenies in North America. Uralian orogeny in Europe/Asia tapers off. Altaid orogeny in Asia. Hunter-Bowen Orogeny on Australian Continent begins (c. 260–225 Ma), forming the MacDonnell Ranges.||254.2 ± 0.1*|
|Wuchiapingian||259.9 ± 0.4*|
|Guadalupian||Capitanian||265.1 ± 0.4*|
|Wordian/Kazanian||268.8 ± 0.5*|
|Roadian/Ufimian||272.3 ± 0.5*|
|Cisuralian||Kungurian||279.3 ± 0.6|
|Artinskian||290.1 ± 0.1|
|Sakmarian||295.5 ± 0.4|
|Asselian||298.9 ± 0.2*|
|Upper||Gzhelian||Winged insects radiate suddenly; some (esp. Protodonata and Palaeodictyoptera) are quite large. Amphibians common and diverse. First reptiles and coal forests ( scale trees, ferns, club trees, giant horsetails, Cordaites, etc.). Highest-ever atmospheric oxygen levels. Goniatites, brachiopods, bryozoa, bivalves, and corals plentiful in the seas and oceans. Testate forams proliferate. Uralian orogeny in Europe and Asia. Variscan orogeny occurs towards middle and late Mississippian Periods.||303.7 ± 0.1|
|Kasimovian||307.0 ± 0.1|
|Middle||Moscovian||315.2 ± 0.2|
|Lower||Bashkirian||323.2 ± 0.4*|
|Upper||Serpukhovian||Large primitive trees, first land vertebrates, and amphibious sea-scorpions live amid coal-forming coastal swamps. Lobe-finned rhizodonts are dominant big fresh-water predators. In the oceans, early sharks are common and quite diverse; echinoderms (especially crinoids and blastoids) abundant. Corals, bryozoa, goniatites and brachiopods ( Productida, Spiriferida, etc.) very common, but trilobites and nautiloids decline. Glaciation in East Gondwana. Tuhua Orogeny in New Zealand tapers off.||330.9 ± 0.2|
|Middle||Viséan||346.7 ± 0.4*|
|Lower||Tournaisian||358.9 ± 0.4*|
|Devonian||Upper||Famennian||First clubmosses, horsetails and ferns appear, as do the first seed-bearing plants ( progymnosperms), first trees (the progymnosperm Archaeopteris), and first (wingless) insects. Strophomenid and atrypid brachiopods, rugose and tabulate corals, and crinoids are all abundant in the oceans. Goniatite ammonoids are plentiful, while squid-like coleoids arise. Trilobites and armoured agnaths decline, while jawed fishes ( placoderms, lobe-finned and ray-finned fish, and early sharks) rule the seas. First amphibians still aquatic. "Old Red Continent" of Euramerica. Beginning of Acadian Orogeny for Anti-Atlas Mountains of North Africa, and Appalachian Mountains of North America, also the Antler, Variscan, and Tuhua Orogeny in New Zealand.||372.2 ± 1.6*|
|Frasnian||382.7 ± 1.6*|
|Middle||Givetian||387.7 ± 0.8*|
|Eifelian||393.3 ± 1.2*|
|Lower||Emsian||407.6 ± 2.6*|
|Pragian||410.8 ± 2.8*|
|Lochkovian||419.2 ± 3.2*|
|Silurian||Pridoli||no faunal stages defined||First Vascular plants (the rhyniophytes and their relatives), first millipedes and arthropleurids on land. First jawed fishes, as well as many armoured jawless fish, populate the seas. Sea-scorpions reach large size. Tabulate and rugose corals, brachiopods (Pentamerida, Rhynchonellida, etc.), and crinoids all abundant. Trilobites and mollusks diverse; graptolites not as varied. Beginning of Caledonian Orogeny for hills in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and the Scandinavian Mountains. Also continued into Devonian period as the Acadian Orogeny, above. Taconic Orogeny tapers off. Lachlan Orogeny on Australian Continent tapers off.||423.0 ± 2.3*|
|Ludlow/ Cayugan||Ludfordian||425.6 ± 0.9*|
|Gorstian||427.4 ± 0.5*|
|Wenlock||Homerian/ Lockportian||430.5 ± 0.7*|
|Sheinwoodian/ Tonawandan||433.4 ± 0.8*|
|Telychian/ Ontarian||438.5 ± 1.1*|
|Aeronian||440.8 ± 1.2*|
|Rhuddanian||443.4 ± 1.5*|
|Ordovician||Upper||Hirnantian||Invertebrates diversify into many new types (e.g., long straight-shelled cephalopods). Early corals, articulate brachiopods (Orthida, Strophomenida, etc.), bivalves, nautiloids, trilobites, ostracods, bryozoa, many types of echinoderms ( crinoids, cystoids, starfish, etc.), branched graptolites, and other taxa all common. Conodonts (early planktonic vertebrates) appear. First green plants and fungi on land. Ice age at end of period.||445.2 ± 1.4*|
|Katian||453.0 ± 0.7*|
|Sandbian||458.4 ± 0.9*|
|Middle||Darriwilian||467.3 ± 1.1*|
|Dapingian||470.0 ± 1.4*|
|477.7 ± 1.4*|
|Tremadocian||485.4 ± 1.9*|
|Cambrian||Furongian||Stage 10||Major diversification of life in the Cambrian Explosion. Numerous fossils; most modern animal phyla appear. First chordates appear, along with a number of extinct, problematic phyla. Reef-building Archaeocyatha abundant; then vanish. Trilobites, priapulid worms, sponges, inarticulate brachiopods (unhinged lampshells), and many other animals numerous. Anomalocarids are giant predators, while many Ediacaran fauna die out. Prokaryotes, protists (e.g., forams), fungi and algae continue to present day. Gondwana emerges. Petermann Orogeny on the Australian Continent tapers off (550–535 Ma). Ross Orogeny in Antarctica. Adelaide Geosyncline (Delamerian Orogeny), majority of orogenic activity from 514–500 Ma. Lachlan Orogeny on Australian Continent, c. 540–440 Ma. Atmospheric CO2 content roughly 20–35 times present-day ( Holocene) levels (6000 ppmv compared to today's 385 ppmv)||c. 489.5|
|Series 3||Guzhangian||c. 500.5*|
|Stage 5||c. 509|
|Series 2||Stage 4||c. 514|
|Stage 3||c. 521|
|Terreneuvian||Stage 2||c. 529|
|Fortunian||541.0 ± 1.0*|
|Ediacaran||Good fossils of the first multi-celled animals. Ediacaran biota flourish worldwide in seas. Simple trace fossils of possible worm-like Trichophycus, etc. First sponges and trilobitomorphs. Enigmatic forms include many soft-jellied creatures shaped like bags, disks, or quilts (like Dickinsonia). Taconic Orogeny in North America. Aravalli Range orogeny in Indian Subcontinent. Beginning of Petermann Orogeny on Australian Continent. Beardmore Orogeny in Antarctica, 633–620 Ma.||c. 635*|
|Cryogenian||Possible "Snowball Earth" period. Fossils still rare. Rodinia landmass begins to break up. Late Ruker / Nimrod Orogeny in Antarctica tapers off.||850|
|Tonian||Rodinia supercontinent persists. Trace fossils of simple multi-celled eukaryotes. First radiation of dinoflagellate-like acritarchs. Grenville Orogeny tapers off in North America. Pan-African orogeny in Africa. Lake Ruker / Nimrod Orogeny in Antarctica, 1000 ± 150 Ma. Edmundian Orogeny (c. 920 - 850 Ma), Gascoyne Complex, Western Australia. Adelaide Geosyncline laid down on Australian Continent, beginning of Adelaide Geosyncline (Delamerian Orogeny) in that continent.||1000|
|Stenian||Narrow highly metamorphic belts due to orogeny as Rodinia forms. Late Ruker / Nimrod Orogeny in Antarctica possibly begins. Musgrave Orogeny (c. 1080 Ma), Musgrave Block, Central Australia.||1200|
|Ectasian||Platform covers continue to expand. Green algae colonies in the seas. Grenville Orogeny in North America.||1400|
|Calymmian||Platform covers expand. Barramundi Orogeny, McArthur Basin, Northern Australia, and Isan Orogeny, c.1600 Ma, Mount Isa Block, Queensland||1600|
|Statherian||First complex single-celled life: protists with nuclei. Columbia is the primordial supercontinent. Kimban Orogeny in Australian Continent ends. Yapungku Orogeny on Yilgarn craton, in Western Australia. Mangaroon Orogeny, 1680–1620 Ma, on the Gascoyne Complex in Western Australia. Kararan Orogeny (1650- Ma), Gawler Craton, South Australia.||1800|
|Orosirian||The atmosphere becomes oxygenic. Vredefort and Sudbury Basin asteroid impacts. Much orogeny. Penokean and Trans-Hudsonian Orogenies in North America. Early Ruker Orogeny in Antarctica, 2000 - 1700 Ma. Glenburgh Orogeny, Glenburgh Terrane, Australian Continent c. 2005–1920 Ma. Kimban Orogeny, Gawler craton in Australian Continent begins.||2050|
|Rhyacian||Bushveld Igneous Complex forms. Huronian glaciation.||2300|
|Siderian||Oxygen catastrophe: banded iron formations forms. Sleaford Orogeny on Australian Continent, Gawler Craton 2440–2420 Ma.||2500|
|Archean||Neoarchean||Stabilization of most modern cratons; possible mantle overturn event. Insell Orogeny, 2650 ± 150 Ma. Abitibi greenstone belt in present-day Ontario and Quebec begins to form, stablizes by 2600 Ma.||2800|
|Mesoarchean||First stromatolites (probably colonial cyanobacteria). Oldest macrofossils. Humboldt Orogeny in Antarctica. Blake River Megacaldera Complex begins to form in present-day Ontario and Quebec, ends by roughly 2696 Ma.||3200|
|Paleoarchean||First known oxygen-producing bacteria. Oldest definitive microfossils. Oldest cratons on Earth (such as the Canadian Shield and the Pilbara Craton) may have formed during this period. Rayner Orogeny in Antarctica.||3600|
|Eoarchean||Simple single-celled life (probably bacteria and archaea). Oldest probable microfossils.||4000|
||Early Imbrian||Indirect photosynthetic evidence (e.g., kerogen) of primordial life. This era overlaps the end of the Late Heavy Bombardment of the inner solar system.||c.4100|
|Nectarian||This unit gets its name from the lunar geologic timescale when the Nectaris Basin and other greater lunar basins form by big impact events.||c.4300|
|Basin Groups||Oldest known rock (4030 Ma). The first life forms and self-replicating RNA molecules evolve around 4000 Ma, after the Late Heavy Bombardment ends on Earth. Napier Orogeny in Antarctica, 4000 ± 200 Ma.||c.4500|
|Cryptic||Oldest known mineral ( Zircon, 4404 ± 8 Ma). Formation of Moon(4533 Ma), probably from giant impact. Formation of Earth (4567.17 to 4570 Ma)||c.4567|
Proposed Precambrian Timeline
The Geologic Time Scale 2012 book from which the ICS approved the new time scale also included a proposal to radically revise the Precambrian Timescale. Three periods are named after supercontinents.
- Hadean Eon - 4568-4030 MYA
- Chaotian Era - 4568-4404 MYA
- Jack Hillsian or Zirconian Era - 4404-4030 MYA
- Archean Eon - 4030-2420 MYA
- Paleoarchean Era - 4030-3490 MYA
- Acastan Period - 4030-3810 MYA
- Isuan Period - 3810-3490 MYA
- Mesoarchean Era - 3490-2780 MYA
- Vaalbaran Period - 3490-3020 MYA
- Pongolan Period - 3020-2780 MYA
- Neoarchean Era - 2780-2420 MYA
- Methanian Period - 2780-2630 MYA
- Siderian Period - 2630-2420 MYA
- Paleoarchean Era - 4030-3490 MYA
- Proterozoic Eon - 2420-541 MYA
- Paleoproterozoic Era - 2420-1780 MYA
- Oxygenian Period - 2420-2250 MYA
- Jatulian or Eukaryian Period - 2250-2060 MYA
- Columbian Period - 2060-1780 MYA
- Mesoproterozoic Era - 1780-850 MYA
- Rodinian Period - 1780-850 MYA
- Neoproterozoic Era - 850-541 MYA
- Cryogenian Period - 850-635 MYA
- Ediacaran Period - 635-541 MYA
- Paleoproterozoic Era - 2420-1780 MYA