The Earth's crust, oceans and atmosphere have evolved over an enormous timescale. Geologists (scientists who study the earth) have broken this timescale up into a number of boxes that are usually represented by specific types of rocks or fossils. Names have been given to each of these boxes; and increasingly accurate ages are given to their boundaries.
Some of the boxes are named after places where the rocks were studied in detail (eg the Devonian after Devon). Because the world's surface plates are constantly moving, albeit very slowly, the rocks vary at different times. For example the Devonian sandstones of England represent a time when southern England was in the southern latitudes, near the area occupied by the Namibian deserts today. The Carboniferous rocks in England include coals deposited by vast forests when England lay on the Equator, and the Permian sandstones when we were at the latitude of the western Sahara. During the Jurassic we were crossing the latitude of the Mediterranean and moving north through where Spain is now. During the Cretaceous and Palaeogene we were moving through northern Spain and modern France to our current position. Our northward movement has now slowed right down and we have changed direction - moving eastwards, while North America is moving to the west.
We have included information on this webpage which describes the overall scheme and where the Isle of Wight fits into the global timescale. The time zones have been put into table form so that we can update them as more accurate techniques and data become available.Some significant events for life have also been added - the times of arrival of whole new groups of organism, and the timing of major extinctions.
The stratigraphic dates below were published in February 2014 by the International Commission on Stratigraphy.
Dates published in 2014 by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. (Ma = Mega annum - 'million years' ago). The Proterozoic and Archaean are sometimes referred together as the 'Precambrian'.
Last survivor reported 1681
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