Editor’s note: This article features a reader-submitted map. We congratulate this reader on their map being selected and invite you to submit your own maps for consideration.
A lot has happened in Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history. From long before Pangea to the current arrangement of Earth’s continents, the planet itself has undergone substantial change. With Earth’s crust and mantle as the stage, time and geology put on a remarkable show. Earth’s shifting tectonic plates have forged mountains, carved valleys, and both created and destroyed landmasses within an ever-changing assortment of oceans. All the while, various forms of life emerged, evolved, and faced extinction.
Have you ever wondered “What did Earth look like when. . . “? That’s a question Ian Webster answers with Ancient Earth, an interactive map that attempts to show how Earth may have looked at various times between now and 750 million years ago. Using data from the PAELEOMAP Project,Ancient Earth allows users to select a time range or event and get a glimpse of a more youthful Earth at such a time.
As you move backwards millions of years at a time, a familiar arrangement of continents and land cover gives way to a much different, and at times unrecognizable, landscape. To make comparisons to the present easier, modern borders are overlaid as the map morphs toward its ancient state. All of this happens in an intuitive, lightweight site that readers can enjoy on almost any device. In addition to distinct time periods, users can also choose key events—such as the emergence of algae, the first coral reefs, or the Cretaceous period—and peer into Earth’s ancient past.