This map lets you plug in your address to see how it’s changed over the past 750 million years
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Travel back 240 million years. There is a patch of land. It would one day become the National Mall. That land was part of an huge supercontinent. It was known as Pangea. It took up nearly all of Earth's land mass. But Pangea didn't look much like our current planet.
Now people can superimpose today's political boundaries onto the geographic formations of the past. That's thanks to a recently released map. It's interactive. The map shows dates as far back as 750 million years.
The results are cool. The National Mall in is one example. It is in Washington, D.C. The map shows it in the Early Triassic Epoch. It was wedged almost directly across from Mauritania. It was yet to be separated from the Northwest African country. That separation would become the Atlantic Ocean.
Ancient Earth is the tool. It is behind this map. It is the brainchild of Ian Webster. He is a curator. He is behind the world's largest digital dinosaur database. Michael D'estries reported for Mother Nature Network. He said Webster drew on data. It came from the PALEOMAP Project. It was spearheaded by Christopher Scotese. He is a palaeogeographer. The project tracks the evolving "distribution of land and sea." It tracks it over the past 1,100 million years. That's what they used to build the map.
Users can input a specific address. They can input a state. They can also input a country. Then they choose a date. It must range from zero to 750 million years ago. The map offers 26 timeline options. These travel back from the present to the Cryogenian Period. The map shows intervals of 15 to 150 million years.
George Dvorsky works for Gizmodo. He said Ancient Earth includes many helpful features. These include toggle display options. These are related to globe rotation. It also includes lighting. And it includes cloud coverage. Brief descriptions of chosen time periods pop up. Users will see them on the bottom left side of the screen. A dropdown menu is at the top right. It allows users to jump to specific milestones in history. These include the arrival of Earth's first multicellular organisms. That was around 600 million years ago. It also includes early hominids' emergence. That was around 20 million years ago.
You can switch from one time period to another. You can do this manually. You just choose from a dropdown menu. You can also use your keyboard's left and right arrow keys. Start at the very beginning of the map's timeline. That's advice from Michele Debczak. He works at Mental Floss. He says you'll see the planet evolve. It will change from an "unrecognizable blobs of land" to the massive supercontinent of Pangea. Eventually you'll see the seven continents. We inhabit those today.
Jesus Diaz works for Fast Company. He outlines several things revealed by Ancient Earth. One example is from 750 million years ago. It shows Midtown Manhattan. It was once situated at the center of a giant icy landmass. A description on the side of the map explains.
"Glaciers may have covered the entire planet during the [Cryogenian Period]. The greatest ice age known on Earth."
Debczak says to move forward to 500 million years ago. The map again shows New York City. It pops up as a tiny island. It is in the southern hemisphere. You can look at that same view for London. It is still part of Pangea. It appears almost directly across from the South Pole.
"I'm amazed that geologists collected enough data to actually plot my home 750 [million] years ago. So, I thought you all would enjoy it too." That's what Webster wrote in a comment. It was on Hacker News.
He is quick to point out that the map should be considered an estimate. That's despite the fact that plate tectonic models return precise results.
"Obviously we will never be able to prove correctness," Webster concludes. "In my tests I found that model results can vary significantly. I chose this particular model because it is widely cited and covers the greatest length of time."