Quaternary period


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Related to Quaternary period: Tertiary period, Neogene Period

See also: Geologic Timescale (table)Geologic Timescale
Era Period Epoch Approximate duration
(millions of years)
Approximate number of years ago
(millions of years)

Cenozoic Quaternary Holocene 10,000 years ago to the present  
Pleistocene 2 .
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Quaternary period

(kwətûr`nərē), younger of the two geologic periods of the Cenozoic eraCenozoic era
, last major division of geologic time (see Geologic Timescale, table) lasting from 65 million years ago to the present. The Cenozoic is divided into the Tertiary (from 65 million years ago until 2 million years ago) and Quaternary (2 million years ago to the
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 of geologic time (see Geologic TimescaleGeologic Timescale
Era Period Epoch Approximate duration
(millions of years)
Approximate number of years ago
(millions of years)

Cenozoic Quaternary Holocene 10,000 years ago to the present  
Pleistocene 2 .
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, table) from 2 millon years ago to the present. Comprising all geologic time from the end of the Tertiary periodTertiary period
, name for the major portion of the Cenozoic era, the most recent of the geologic eras (see Geologic Timescale, table) from around 26 to 66 million years ago. The name Tertiary was first applied about the middle of the 18th cent.
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 to the present, it is divided into the PleistocenePleistocene epoch
, 6th epoch of the Cenozoic era of geologic time (see Geologic Timescale, table). According to a classification that considered its deposits to have been formed by the biblical great flood, the epoch was originally called the Quaternary.
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 and HoloceneHolocene epoch
or Recent epoch,
most recent of all subdivisions of geologic time, ranging from the present back to the time (c.11,000 years ago) of almost complete withdrawal of the glaciers of the preceding Pleistocene epoch.
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, or Recent, epochs. It was named (1759) by Giovanni Arduino, an Italian scientist who thought that the biblical great flood was responsible for its deposits. During the early Quaternary, Europe and North America were covered by the glaciers of the Pleistocene epochPleistocene epoch
, 6th epoch of the Cenozoic era of geologic time (see Geologic Timescale, table). According to a classification that considered its deposits to have been formed by the biblical great flood, the epoch was originally called the Quaternary.
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. Retreat of the glaciers led to isostatic rebound (see continentcontinent,
largest unit of landmasses on the earth. The continents include Eurasia (conventionally regarded as two continents, Europe and Asia), Africa, North America, South America, Australia, and Antarctica.
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) of the crust in the Holocene. In the Quaternary the climate and present physical features of the earth continued to develop. Significant changes in sea level within historic times are demonstrated by the submergence of the temple of Jupiter Serapis near Naples and by the rising of the shores of the Baltic. The life of the Quaternary has been marked by the rise and dominance of humans.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Quaternary period encompasses the last 2 million years.
The land is a high plateau, its strange lunar landscape formed by a series of volcanic eruptions which laid down a deep layer of tufa in the Tertiary Period and then at the start of the Quaternary Period or even earlier, the volcanoes spewed out lava which laid down a layer of basalt and gnawed away at the tufa underneath, creating cones of tufa surmounted by basalt caps.
6 million years), known as the Quaternary period, is characterized by large climatic swings from ice age to warmer interglacial periods similar to the present one.
In the paper, Goff and colleagues from UNSW and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, noted that geologists and climatologists have interpreted geological deposits in Chile, Antarctica, Australia, and elsewhere as evidence of climatic change, marking the start of the Quaternary period.