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History of Life HTML5

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The Earth was formed almost 4.54 billion years ago. This figure is to be placed in comparison with other figures such as:

  • 13.6 billion years: estimated age of the universe.
  • 4.57 billion years: Sun's age (which is half of his entire life).

The history of the Earth is divided as follows:

  • 4 "aeons" or "eons" that last between 540 Myr (Myr = million years) and 2 Byr (Byr = billion years).
  • Each aeon is subdivided into three or four "eras" of a few hundred million years (> 100 Myr).
  • An era divides three or four "periods" of a few tens of millions of years (> 10 Myr)
  • The periods are divided into "epochs" whose unit of time is the million years (> 1 Myr).

The animation does not illustrate the epochs and only the periods of the last aeon (Phanerozoic) are represented.

The main educational objective of this animation is to reveal the order of magnitude of the durations and the proportions. Keep in mind that there are two scales in this timeline:

  • The first three eons make up roughly seven-eighths of the Earth'S history. One screen is about 70 Myr large. If you click on "play", you will travel at a rate of 5 Myr per second. Even at this prodigious speed, it will take you about 15 minutes to cover the whole precambrian History. 
  • During the last eon (Phanerozoic) one screen is about 40 Myr large. If you click on "play", you will travel at a rate of about 2 Myr per second. At this slower speed, our whole 2000 years calendar will last no more than 1 millisecond.

Our usual perception of time does not allow us to correctly grasp the gigantic geological durations at work here. Thus, a mass extinction that appears punctually in the illustration spreads in reality over thousands or even millions of years. Such an event remains however very brutal on a geological time scale.

The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) has in its missions the establishment of a geological time scale. This scale is available at It is updated according to the discoveries of paleontologists.

See also the Geological Clock simulation to get another representation (at scale) of this timeline.

Learning goals

  • To define the terms "Aeon" (or "Eon"), "Era", "Period" and their interweaving.
  • To teach the orders of magnitude of durations.
  • To put the history of humanity in context.
  • To read a timeline.


Learn more

  • Hadean: First aeon (550 Myr). The protoplanet Earth has just been formed by accretion. For tens of millions of years, a shower of meteorites completes its formation. The Earth is only an ocean…

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