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Geologic Time Scale: The Cenozoic Era

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The Cenozoic Era is the latest part of the Phanerozoic Eon, starting 66 million years ago. These tables list all the subdivisions of the Cenozoic, first according to the international standard and second according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Details beneath the tables.

2013 International Geologic Time Scale—Cenozoic Era
PeriodEpochAgeDates (m.y.)
QuaternaryHolocene
0.0117-0
PleistoceneLate0.126-0.0117
Ionian0.781-0.126
Calabrian1.806-0.781
Gelasian2.588-1.806
NeogenePliocenePiacenzian3.600-2.588
Zanclean5.333-3.600
MioceneMessinian7.246-5.333
Tortonian11.62-7.246
Serravallian13.82-11.62
Langhian15.97-13.82
Burdigalian20.44-15.97
Aquitanian23.03-20.44
PaleogeneOligoceneChattian28.1-23.03
Rupelian33.9-28.1
EocenePriabonian38.0-33.9
Bartonian41.3-38.0
Lutetian47.8-41.3
Ypresian56.0-47.8
PaleoceneThanetian59.2-56.0
Selandian61.6-59.2
Danian66.0-61.6

2010 U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Time Scale—Cenozoic Era
PeriodSubperiodEpochAgeDates (m.y.)
QuaternaryHolocene
0.0117-0
PleistoceneLate0.126-0.0117
Middle0.781-0.126
Early1.806-0.781
Gelasian2.588-1.806
TertiaryNeogenePliocene
Piacenzian3.600-2.588
Zanclean5.333-3.600
MioceneMessinian7.246-5.333
Tortonian11.62-7.246
Serravallian13.82-11.62
Langhian15.97-13.82
Burdigalian20.44-15.97
Aquitanian23.03-20.44
PaleogeneOligoceneChattian28.1-23.03
Rupelian33.9-28.1
EocenePriabonian38.0-33.9
Bartonian41.3-38.0
Lutetian47.8-41.3
Ypresian56.0-47.8
PaleoceneThanetian59.2-56.0
Selandian61.6-59.2
Danian66.0-61.6
(c) 2013 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com, Inc. (fair use policy). Data from Geologic Time Scale of 2013.

Back to the top-level geologic time scale

These geologic time scales represent the working edge of historical geology, showing the latest names and dates of the smallest recognized divisions of geologic time. The Cenozoic Era is the third and latest part of the Phanerozoic Eon. For anyone but specialists, the rounded-off dates in the Phanerozoic table are sufficient. Each of these dates also has a specified uncertainty, which you can look up at the source.

The 2013 International Geologic Time Scale does not recognize the Tertiary period, but the name has a long history and is widely understood. Geologists continue to wrangle over this development, and the U.S. Geological Survey has retained the Tertiary in its latest standard of 2010. However, I have used the dates from 2013 in both scales.

The Holocene Epoch officially begins 10,000 years ago as measured by radiocarbon; unfortunately the radiocarbon scale is now known to be 1700 years too young at that point in time. There is a proposal to add an Anthropocene Epoch on top of the Holocene, reflecting the human influence on the Earth. My idea is to use Anthropocene instead as the name for the age corresponding to the Holocene.

The dates shown on this table were specified by the International Commission on Stratigraphy in 2013 and the colors were specified by the Committee for the Geologic Map of the World in 2009, except for the Tertiary which was specified by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2004.

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