by Jack Le Moine
How to classify the historical eras in a way that makes sense? Of course, there’s the big 3: Ancient, Modern, and The Middle Ages but as I try to keep historical cultures straight in my poor little brain, more detail is needed. My trouble is that as I look to how other historians classify historical eras, their nomenclature does not make sense. – What is archaic about the “Archaic Era” anyway? The “Common Era” is just a fiction, the historians’ surrender to the current time’s pressure for political correctness. As for the “Age of Enlightenment”, well.
What precipitated this essay was prehistory. How to make sense of it all? One is overwhelmed by the sheer mass of time and the evolution of both life and the planet. Scientists classify time into epochs, eras, and ages but these classifications confuse more than help. They seem to describe geology rather than help comprehend the significant attributes of the period.
While a decent classification of prehistory ought to include the interesting changes in the planet (e.g. the changes in climate or the movement of the continents), the historian’s perspective emphasizes the changes in life. So, herewith is my modest attempt to keep history straight – all of history – from the time of the Big Bang to the present day.
|20 B – 4.6 B||Age of Cosmology|
|4.6 B – 600 M||Age of Geology|
|600 M – 400 M||Age of Fish|
|400 M – 250 M||Age of Animals|
|250 M – 65 M||Age of Dinosaurs|
|65 M – 200,000||Age of Mammals|
|200,000 – 110,000||Age of Early Man|
|110,000 – 20,000||Ice Age|
|20,000 – 10,000||Warming Age|
|10,000 – 3000||Agricultural Age|
|3000 – 1000||Bronze Age|
|1000 – 500||Iron Age|
|500 BC – 1 AD||Classical Age|
|1 – 500 AD||Roman Age|
|500 – 1000||Dark Age|
|1000 – 1500||Medieval Age|
|1500 – 2000||European Age|
|2000 –||Present Age|
The 500 year intervals of recorded history do seem to fit. I do not believe in the traditional dividing dates (such as 476 A.D.) because they imply an exactitude that is not real. I like to use traditional names as much as possible but I departed when there’s a name that more appropriately describes the age. I also like to use just one description, “age” in the interests of simplicity. (Just how many “Dark Ages” were there?)
I explain my thinking herein. Click on the titles. Here are the summaries.
In the dates, “M” = Million Years Ago; “B” = Billion Years Ago.