BCE = Before Common Era
YA = Years ago
MYA = Million years ago
BYA = Billion years ago
CHRONOLOGICAL CLOCK OF EARTH’S DEVELOPMENT
00:01 The earth is formed (4.57 bya)
10:45 First PreCambrian rock basement formed in Egypt (2000 mya)
21:00 Mesozoic era begins; life begins rapidly spreading (555 mya)
22:34 Age of Dinosaurs: Triassic begins (248 mya)
23:32 End of Dinosaurs (65.5 mya)
23:40 Tethy’s Sea recedes; Whale dinosaurs evolve (56 – 40 mya)
23:49 Red Sea and Red Sea Mountains were formed by a rift in the Arabia and African plates. No Nile –canyon or river yet (34 mya).
23:59.8 EoNile canyon formed: larger than the Grand Canyon, USA (6 mya)
23:59.9 First early human: Lucy (3.5 mya)
23:59.999 First Homo Sapiens (35,000 ya)
23:59.9999 Nile river and early life in Egypt: Nabta Playa (12 – 10,000 ya)
23:59.99999 Ancient Egypt unified (5000 ya)
23:59.999999 Today 2015 _ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
IN THE BEGINNING…………….
The Big Bang, from which our Universe was born, happened about 13.7 billion years ago, but our earth wasn’t created until 4.57 billion years ago (= 4570 million years), marking the beginning of the To wrap your head around this impossible figure, one billion years is 1,000 million years, whereas one million years is 1,000 x 1,000 years – an incredibly huge slice of time. We consider the ancient Egyptians as an ancient culture, but Egypt wasn’t even unified until 5000 years ago.
PRECAMBRIAN: 4.57 bya – 542 mya.
Our planet, the Earth, was formed at the beginning of the PreCambrian era from gas clouds around the sun, which was compacted together by gravity. Our sun and earth were created about the same time our sun was born, whereas our moon came slightly later. Over time, heavier substances in the earth (such as iron) gravitated towards the earth’s center, while lighter materials, such as silica, moved towards the surface. Finally, the earth began to cool, water and algae were created, and oxygen entered the picture, along with tiny organisms, and, bingo – life started to develop. All of the above took 4.15 billion years to create, which equates to 4,150 million years.
PreCambrian rock forms, Egypt: 2000 mya. CC: 10:45 am
The landmass of Egypt didn’t develop until about 4,000 mya with the earliest PreCambrian rock basement about 2,000 mya after Egypt’s landmass
started forming. This basement is still on the surface of Egypt’s landmass in: the Gulf Uwaneiyet (the far, southwest corner of Egypt), in Aswan (the
southern cataracts), and in the area of the Red Sea. This most ancient of Egypt’s rock could have been part of one of the most ancient continents:
Pangea or Gondwanaland.
During the very late Precambrian era (580 mya), sea creatures (such as Ammonites) began developing hard shells. The petrified/fossilized
remains of such shells can still be easily found in many parts of the Western Desert. For the next 80 million years, water levels rose and most of the
earth was submerged, during the Paleozoic era (580 – 251 mya), depositing even more prehistoric sea creatures in Egypt’s Western Desert. The
geology in this area is truly amazing; it is as if it is a still life picture of an area that has been frozen in time for millions of years.
PALEOZOIC: 542 – 251 mya
Cambrian: 542 – 488 mya
Ordovician & Silurian: 500 – 416 mya
Devonian: 416 – 360 mya
Carboniferous: 360 300 mya
Permian: 300 – 251 mya
The entire Paleozoic period is like the “Dark Age” in geological development; not much is known except that life began appearing in small forms, and some geological development started protruding from the oceans’ depths. At this time, it is theorized that Egypt was probably, once again, beginning to raise itself above the sea level.
The Cambrian was the earliest Paleozoic period, when the earth was mostly covered with water and many small organisms were preserved for study today. In fact so many of these organisms have been found that there seemed to be a spurt of life development here, sometimes referred to as the “Cambrian Explosion.” All life was developing in the water – the land didn’t support enough ‘fuel’ to create animal life or shelter.
In the Ordovician & Silurian period sea life continued to flourish; mostly anthropoids and fish, which continued development, and possibly were the first vertebrae to develop jaws were by the end of this period. However, all of these evolutionary events were violently interrupted by major geological events. The two great landmasses – Laurasia to the north, and Gondwanaland to the south – separated from Pangea, as well as two minor landmasses: Baltica and Siberia. With so much continental movement, and change of ocean patterns, etc, a large portion of sea life died out. At this point, the land on which Cairo currently stands was buried under glacier ice, about 70 degrees to the south.
During the Devonianperiod, Laurasia and Gondwanaland (northern and southern continents) collided in the area of the Sudan, re-creating a new land mass. After the collision, small insects (such as spiders), fish and coral began forming, as well as algae, ferns and mosses on the land surfaces. The land surface development was very important as it provided shade (protection) for insect life forms to develop. This was the first time that active terrestrial life appeared. Plants, turning into forests, covered the continents, and the first seed-bearing plants appeared. Fish grew in such numbers and variety that this age is sometimes known as “the Age of the Fish.” Ancestors of tetrapods started walking on land using their tails and fins as feet, turning them into legs. The first sharks appeared – life really took off.
The Devonian period was also very geologically busy: polar ice caps grew, ocean currents changed, seasons were more pronounced. When the continental shelf was halved, it caused food supply to rapidly fluctuate. Even though at the beginning of this age, many life forms, such as amphibians, land-walkers, etc, further developed, all of this geological upheaval was catastrophic to such development and, as a result, about one-half of all species on earth were destroyed. Another hypothesis of extinction was that a giant comet hit the earth and causing huge planetary disruption. Because of this meteor impact site, extinction could have come about by the meteor, and not by natural geological changes.
The Carboniferous period produced much in the way of carbon (coal), and so, was named, “Carboniferous.” Amphibians flourished and eventually turned into reptiles, and anthropoids were much larger than they are today. This age also saw the beginnings of scorpions, dragonflies and reptiles; oxygen levels were up to 35% (today they are 21%). Later in the Carboniferous, lower sea levels occurred, and once again the larger continents re-converged into one giant landmass – Pangea.
During the Permian period, evolution kept moving forward producing: turtles, lepidosaurs, mammals, and archosaurs. Vast rainforests disappeared leaving deserts in their wakes. The Permian period ended with the extinction of almost 90% of marine species, and 70% of terrestrial life; it was one of the largest extinctions in our planet’s history. It took about 30 million years – well into the Triassic period – for life to recover. At this time, all world continents were now one giant land mass.
MESOZOIC: 251 – 65 mya (CC 21:00)
Triassic: 248 – 213 mya
Jurassic: 200 – 145 mya
Cretaceous: 145 – 65.5 mya
In the Triassic period, Therapsids, dinosaurs and archosaurs were the primary land animal, while flowers and mammals didn’t start appearing until the mid portion of this period. Towards the end of the Triassic, a new variety of archosaurs developed, along with our old buddy, the dinosaur, as well as flying animals such as the pterosaur. During the later part of the Triassic, great areas of Pangea once again began to split back into Laurasia, and Gondwanaland, causing the climate to become more humid. At the end of the Triassic, another plant/animal extinction occurred, leaving the dinosaurs to evolve without restriction in the next period, the Jurassic.
During the Jurassic period (CC 22:34), was when Egypt’s actual land mass formed (including the Fayoum basin). The split of Pangea in the Triassic period, stopped in the middle of the Jurassic (135 mya), forming many more coastlines, along with lots of huge flora along the waterways and in the rainforests – perfect for large animals such as dinosaurs. More flying birds developed, and the proto-crocodiles went from a terrestrial creatures, back into the water. Small and large dinosaurs abounded: such as Stegosaurs, Sauropods, Theropods emerged. During the Jurassic period, the Tethys Sea closed (the final part of it was the modern day Mediterranean), flooding parts of Egypt, with all of the mountains and rises appearing as islands, such as in the 10,000 islands around the south of Florida today. As this water/flora life developed, a perfect environment was created for dinosaurs to exist in Egypt (and the rest of the world).
At the end of the Cretaceous period, a world catastrophe occurred when a huge meteor crashed into the earth (possibly in the south of Mexico), and tilted the earth’s axis, thus changing world climate, and air conditions so drastically that all animals (marine reptiles, dinosaurs, flying reptiles) that weighed more than 22 pounds were wiped out. It was during this time that the brilliant white chalk of Egypt’s Western Desert formed. On a larger scale, Larasia and Gondwanaland continued drifting into our present–day continents.
The Dinosaurs of the Bahariya Oasis: Cretaceous: 145 – 65.5 mya
During the Cretaceous period in Egypt, the Tethys Sea covered the northern third of Egypt. In many places it was shallow, creating the perfect
habitat for large dinosaurs. Why? Many dinosaurs were large, heavy creatures, and required tremendous amounts of food. The shallow waters of
the Tethys Sea in Egypt (such as in the Bahariya Oasis area [between Cairo and Libya]), provided a natural coolant and “weight–loss” program for
such enormous animals. Dinosaurs could walk thru the waters and not only keep themselves cool, but also feel the water/gravity distribute their
weight, and buoy much of their bodies. Water is also necessary for the development of flora and fauna, so much food would be available to the
dinosaurs near the water.
The Bahariya Oasis, and Western Desert is rich in discovered and undiscovered paleontology. Paleontologists have unearthed dinosaur
skeletons since 1911 with a paleontologist named Ernest Stromer, who found the first dinosaur bones ever discovered in Egypt – and he found them
in the Bahariya Oasis. The strata where he uncovered these bones was dated to 95 mya, in a large shallow sea in the oasis, near modern day,
"Pyramid Mountain.” One of these dinosaurs was a Spinosaurus, with a spiked “sail” back and jaws almost 2 meters long, and studded with
crocodile-like teeth. Other species Stromer found were the carnivores, Carcharodontosaurus and Bahariasaurus – both were as big, or bigger than
Tyrannosaurus Rex and resembled this devilish beast in appearance. The other interesting dinosaur he found was the ‘vege-saurus’ –
Aegyptosaurus, which resembled a Brontosaurus, but was a little bit smaller.
All of Stromer’s findings (he discovered much more) were shipped to Munich but were later destroyed during the final 1945 WWII bombing
raids. Many decades later (1990s), Stromer’s project was once again picked up by several paleontologists associated with the University of
Pennsylvania (including Peter Dodson, Robert Giegengack, and Matthew Lamanna). They, with their team, returned to the Bahariya Oasis, to
revive Stromer’s work. This group did so and also made an exciting new discovery – they found a huge bone from a completely new genus and
species of dinosaur – they later named Paralititan stromeri. This dinosaur is one of the heaviest dinosaurs every found – and most likely the largest
the world has ever known.
CENOZOIC: 65.5 mya – present time CC: 23:32
Paleogene (Tertiary): 65.5 – 23.03 mya
Paleocene: 65 – 55 mya
Eocene: 56 – 34 mya
Oligocene: 34 – 23 mya
Neogene (Tertiary): 23 – 2.58 mya
Miocene: 23 – 5.3 mya
Pliocene: 5.3 – 2.58 mya
Quanternary (Tertiary): 2.58 – 0.005 mya
Pleistocene: 2.58 mya – 11,700 ya
Holocene: 11,700 ya to present time
Some of the most important Egyptian geology developed during the Cenozoic era, which begins at 23:40 of our chronological countdown (in the last 20 minutes). The Cenozoic used to have two large periods (Tertiary and the Quaternary), but that has now been changed into 3 periods: Paleogene, Neogene, and Quanternary. As the Quanternary period includes early and modern human development, that section can be found at the page, Pre-Historic Egyptians, Explorers, and Egyptomania For now, we will cover the Paleocene, and Neogene periods and their five epochs.
Paleocene Period: 65.5 – 23.03 mya
The Paleocene epoch in the Paleocene Period is a significant epoch as it begins and ends with two extremely important events: the Cretaceous-
Paleogene Boundary, and thePaleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximun.
The Cretaceous-Paleocene Boundary is composed of the extinction of all non-winged dinosaurs, huge marine reptiles, and most, if not all,
other fauna and flora associated with dinosaurs. This extinction most likely came about when a giant asteroid or comet (10 km diameter) struck the
earth on the Yucatan coast in Mexico; the impact location is called the Chicxulub crater (60 miles wide, and 30 miles deep). The impact of this
asteroid (with the force of a million nuclear bombs) was so enormous that it changed the earth’s climate, and significantly raised iridium levels.
Earthly iridium is rare, heavy, and sinks to the earth’s core. A level such as this (30xs + the normal level) suggests a large extraterrestrial object
struck the earth, bringing these huge amounts of iridium to the surface. Such a huge object (comet or meteorite) would bring enormous dust clouds,
which would block sunlight (for about a year, from this particular impact) from “feeding” flora and fauna, thus helping to create mass extinction. This
drastic climate change lasted only a few decades but it was so severe, that most life on earth became extinct. After the earth’s climate had settled
down, the temperatures were cooler and humidity lower than in the Cretaceous.
After the dust clouds evaporated, and other conditions settled down, life rebounded on earth, and consisted of smaller dinosaurs, and larger
rodents, mammals, scavengers, and herbivores. However, as the second major event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum approached,
temperature and humidity rose, and carbon cycling changed so drastically that there were sub-tropical plants in Greenland with crocodiles living off
its coast; huge tropical palm groves abounded in northern Wyoming, which was then, populated by early primates. When the Paleocene-Eocene
Thermal Maximum was actually in effect (0.2 million year duration), the severe changes to the oceans and atmosphere caused the extinction of
many deep sea shelled creatures, as well as causing a major land mammal turnover. Geologically speaking, Europe and Greenland were still
connected by a land bridge, as were North America and Asia. However the connection between Europe and Greenland began to separate.
The Eocene epoch (CC 23:40) had far warmer temperatures, which is perhaps the reason why mammals were smaller during this period.
Mammals flourished and consisted of: horses, pigs, mastedons, saber-toothed tigers, camels, whales, Carcharinid shark, and relatives of the
elephant. Primates started developing longer legs, useful hands and feet, and teeth, even though their size was very small (10 kg). The Tethys Sea
had closed off from the Atlantic at the Straits of Gibraltar (forming what we know of as the Mediterranean Sea), and most parts of Egypt were
flooded. In the Flower Deserts (in the White and Western Deserts), many seashells and coral still remain, petrified into heavy black objects.
The Tethys flooding also occurred in the Fayoum Oasis and the Wadi Hitan (Whale Dinosaur Valley), where numerous Basilosaurus (whale
dinosaur) skeletons were found. This discovery drastically changed evolutionary thinking: it was previously believed that all life began in the water
and moved to land. However, as these whale dinosaurs had small, well-developed legs, the new theory is that some life began on land – and moved
to the sea. Fields of these Basilosaurus are scattered throughout the Wadi Hitan National Park, where desert camping is allowed. An American
university created a beautiful outdoor dinosaur museum that takes from 2 – 3 hours to stroll through. Additionally during the Eocene, limestone
developed, that was used to make the huge blocks in the pyramids.
The end of the Eocene is another major extinction period that is sometimes called the Grand Coupure or the Eocene-Oligocene Extinction
Event. Like the end of the Cretaceous, this extinction may also have been caused by a bright meteor or fireball, that left huge craters in Siberia and
Chesapeake Bay (US). This impact created climate change, causing carbon isotopes to fall. Greenland went from tropical to igloo, and the ice sheets
in Antartica rapidly spread.
The Oligocene epoch (at 23:49 pm) was a period of major tectonic activity: northern Africa was lifted up, and many faults and rifts were created.
The most significant rift was the African Rift Valley. However, the Red Sea and its mountains were created by another enormous rift that occurred
between the African Plate and the Arabian Peninsula. There was also much volcanic activity in the Red Sea area, which created the most recent
granite; there were volcanoes also in the Western Desert, mainly in the Black Desert near the Bahariya Oasis. The Tethys Sea continued to retreat,
exposing more and more of Egypt to the surface, and rainfall during this period was heavy.
The climate cooled down during the Oligocene, and skeletons of many elephants, two-horned crocodiles, have been discovered between the
Fayoum and Bahriya Oases. In this same greater location, groves of petrified wood can still be found from the Oligocene period. As there was a river
(Libyan River) in this area, possibly some of these corpses were along its banks, being washed down during the torrential rainfalls. Eventually the
rainfalls lessened, the forests retreated, and savannahs grew, which might have promoted the proliferation of larger mammals (enough area to run
and more grazing land for herbivores). However mammal species decreased during this period. During this time, Egypt was located close to the
equator, but started moving north, and rainfalls ceased at the end of the Oligocene. During the extinction event (Grand Coupure), the climate
declined for the next seven million years: ice levels increased while sea levels decreased.
NEOGENE: 23 – 2.58 mya
During the early Miocene epoch, the African plate moved north against the Eurasian plate, creating many subduction zones under the Tethys Sea and this body of water, now confined to the Mediterranean basin, started to dry up. It is also possible that world sea levels dropped significantly, cutting off the Tethys from other water bodies. Whichever the case, the Tethys was now confined to the Mediterranean basin, and was rapidly drying up. Even though there was much water was flowing into the Basin, the weather was warm, and water evaporation at that time, was 10% higher than the water imput. This body of water completely evaporated in a period as short as 1000 years, and remained this way for the next million years.
During this evaporation time, an important geological event occurred in Egypt: the area where our current Nile is began to develop. It started with serious water run off from the Red Sea hills, which settled into an area north of Luxor and created the Qena river. While the Tethys Sea continued to retreat and more and more of the Mediterranean basin was exposed, increasing water run-off occurred and carved out large channels, and deep canyons. At this point, the rivers in Egypt that flowed north-to-south, crashed into the Qena river – and reversed their direction to flow south-to-north, thus creating the EoNile. The EoNile flowed within a giant canyon that was carved out of the water flowing into Egypt from the Mediterranean/Tethys Sea, during the course of about 100,000 years. The EoNile canyon was deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and reached from Aswan (or further south) to the Mediterranean basin. You can still see the upper 10% of this huge canyon in the cliffs of the West Bank (Luxor), especially in the area of Deir el-Bahri (Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple).
During the Miocene, more limestone was created between Libya and Cairo, mainly in the Qattara Depression, where Mastodon fossils have been discovered. Also in existence in Egypt were many apes, during the period of time that they split with their chimpanzee ancestors, taking a separate evolutionary path. Most plants and animals are ancestors of the ones we see today.
Sometime in the Pliocene epoch of the Neocene period, the Atlantic breached the Straits of Gibraltar, and water came crashing into the Mediterranean basin and into Egypt’s EoNile, turning the river into an extension of the sea. After this occurred the first Nile River was created (the PaleoNile). Fossils and marine layers from this period and earlier can be found in this Nile/Mediterranean area. During this epoch, Egypt began drying up, and the PaleoNile and the Libyan Rivers stopped flowing.
Before and during the river drying stage, Egypt abounded with many creatures, such as elephants, giraffes, and crocodiles in the Wadi Natroun and the Western Desert. Although the Bible says that the Son of Ham created the Western Desert oases, there also happened to be lots of geological activity in this area, which was most likely responsible for the oases’ creation. For example: in the Bahariya Oasis, a large opening occurred throughout the entire area, which was later filled by a lake, and maybe some of the Mediterranean/Tethys Sea.
The most important developments in Egypt during the Pliocene epoch, was that Acheulean (1.7 – 0.1 mya) (or possibly Oldowan 2.6 – 1.8 mya) stone tools began appearing at the same time that Homo Hablis (the ‘handyman’ and earliest of the “homo” genus) came on the scene; Homo Hablis (2.3 – 1.4 mya), were the first stone tool-makers. The earliest of our species (with our modern anatomy) was Archaic Homo Sapiens, who evolved between 400,000 to 250,000 years ago; current Homo Sapiens (with our behavioral abilities) evolved about 50,000 years ago. The oldest footprints (of pre-humans) in Egypt may have been discovered in the Siwa Oasis: these prints still need to be authenticated, but if real, could date to 2+ mya (the oldest pre-human footprints ever were found in Tanzania and date to 3.75 mya).
NOTE: for the Holocene period and early Egyptian human societies, please follow this link: Early Desert People, Explorers, and EgyptomaniaType your paragraph here.
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