This map lets you plug in your address to see how it’s changed over the past 750 million years
This map lets you plug in your address to see how it’s changed over the past 750 million years During the Early Triassic Epoch, Washington, D.C. was situated in a massive supercontinent called Pangea. (Ian Webster/Ancient Earth/Flickr)
This map lets you plug in your address to see how it’s changed over the past 750 million years
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Some 240 million years ago, the patch of land that would one day become the National Mall was part of an enormous supercontinent known as Pangea. Encompassing nearly all of Earth's extant land mass, Pangea bore little resemblance to our contemporary planet. Thanks to a recently released interactive map, however, interested parties can now superimpose the political boundaries of today onto the geographic formations of yesteryear-at least dating back to 750 million years ago.

The results are intriguing: During the Early Triassic Epoch, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for example, was wedged almost directly adjacent to Mauritania, yet to be separated from the Northwest African country by the vast waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ancient Earth, the tool behind this millennia-spanning visualization, is the brainchild of Ian Webster, curator of the world's largest digital dinosaur database. As Michael D'estries reports for Mother Nature Network, Webster drew on data from the PALEOMAP Project-spearheaded by paleogeographer Christopher Scotese, the initiative tracks the evolving "distribution of land and sea" over the past 1,100 million years-to build the map.

Users can input a specific address or more generalized region, such as a state or country, and then choose a date ranging from zero to 750 million years ago. Currently, the map offers 26 timeline options, traveling back from the present to the Cryogenian Period at intervals of 15 to 150 million years.

According to Gizmodo's George Dvorsky, Ancient Earth includes an array of helpful navigational features, including toggle display options related to globe rotation, lighting and cloud coverage. Brief descriptions of chosen time periods pop up on the bottom left side of the screen, while a dropdown menu at the top right allows users to jump to specific milestones in history, from the arrival of Earth's first multicellular organisms some 600 million years ago to early hominids' relatively belated emergence around 20 million years ago.

To switch from one time period to another, you can either manually choose from a dropdown menu or use your keyboard's left and right arrow keys. Start at the very beginning of the map's timeline, Michele Debczak advises for Mental Floss, and you'll see the planet evolve from "unrecognizable blobs of land" to the massive supercontinent of Pangea and, finally, the seven continents we inhabit today.

Fast Company's Jesus Diaz outlines several insights revealed by Ancient Earth: 750 million years ago, for instance, Midtown Manhattan was situated at the center of a giant icy landmass. As the 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." Flash forward to 500 million years ago, Debczak adds, and New York City pops up as a tiny island in the southern hemisphere, while London, still part of Pangea, appears almost directly adjacent to 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," Webster writes in a comment on Hacker News.

He is quick to point out, however, that the visualizations should be considered approximate 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."

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What do you think is the biggest benefit of this map? Why?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • MavisM-lam
    11/07/2019 - 09:37 a.m.

    I think that it's really interesting that we can see just how much the world has changed over time and compare how the planet used to be to the world we're living in today. It's amazing that people have enough information about not only what the world is like today but what it was like millions of years ago to make an app like this.

  • TuleA-lam
    11/07/2019 - 10:52 a.m.

    I think that the biggest benefit of this map is showing us how humans and human creations have evolved over some million-billion years.

  • MadisonM-lam1
    11/07/2019 - 12:03 p.m.

    I find it very interesting how you're able to see how everything around you has changed and how technology has advanced. Also, its very impressing how we have enough information from millions of years ago to make this map.

  • MasonM-pla1
    9/15/2020 - 02:43 p.m.

    The story is about a new computer simulation that allows people to see how earth has shaped throughout time. The program allows people to pick either a specific location or just a general region or country. Then it places the modern borders on the area, and you can view its location up to 750 million years ago. We will never be able to prove correctness, but it's interesting to see how far science and technology has come that we can say that this simulation is fairly accurate. I connect to this because although I don't get to witness the the earth's landmasses shuffling around in the real world, I can see the social change happening in today's society.

  • KaraD-pla
    9/24/2020 - 01:08 p.m.

    Scientists have now created an interactive map, allowing consumers to view how the world looked millions of years in the past. To develop such a map, years of data were combined to create one cohesive, viewable, and interactive aspect of technology. Inventions such as these can prove how communication and civic responsibility can benefit everyone. By collaborating with organizations and researchers in a respectful and effective manner, new technologies and advancements can be made. With a lack of a sense of civic duty, it is possible that no attempt would be made to create interactive maps, therefore, leaving the history of the world darker.

  • NatalieF-pla
    10/20/2020 - 03:11 p.m.

    About 240 years ago there was a supercontinent called Pangea where all of today's 7 continents fell into. If you have ever wondered where your house or where your school would have fallen in years past this database is the perfect tool for you. While using this database called PALEOMAP Project-spearheaded you are able to gather information about what different locations looked like. Scientists have been able to create this and made it easily accessible to citizens that are curious just by looking up the database and entering an address. I think that this helps with civic engagement as the database helps you gather information for your own interest and allows you to see pictures and learn a little more about how your house came to be.

  • ClaudiaZ-pla
    10/25/2020 - 04:38 p.m.

    This article explains a new website where you can plug in your location, for example, your house and it will show what it looked like 750 years ago. It explains how it is believed we had a supercontinent called Pangea and the earth grew into separate continents over time. I think this is really interesting because I find it awesome how much data scientists have about these times where they are actually able to make a map roughly showing what any location would look like back then. The technology is truly amazing. This relates to civic engagement because this is shaping technology and the future of research and technology. It is giving people new skills and they are more confident with their data. It is incredible how ambitious they are with technology and showing people their data that they would create something like this. I definitely am going to check out this website after I read this article.

  • Lily1-leu9
    12/17/2020 - 04:40 p.m.

    I think that the biggest benefit of this map is that we can see maybe when other contraries were in Pangaea and for research. also to help find more land that was on Pangaea but can not be found.

  • Megang-pla
    2/10/2021 - 02:57 p.m.

    This article was about an interactive map that is able to show you what any address looked like for the past 750 million years. Geologists have created this and it even shows major events on the timeline and what the earth looked like at those points before the shifts in the plate tectonics. This relates to civic engagement because it is helping the world become more knowledgeable about the past. This invention could help bring cultures together once they look at the map and see at one point in time how close their lands were. All in all, this article showed an advancement in technology of the world and through it the community benefits.

  • Megang-pla
    2/11/2021 - 01:50 p.m.

    This article was about a interactive app that allows you to look at any address and what is has looked like in the past 750 million years. I thought that it was interesting that the map showed what the earth looked like before the the plate tectonics moved. This relates to civic engagement because it will allow the world to be more knowledgeable about their past work. It will also help cultures around the world come closer together when they see how close their land was to others land before the plate tectonic movements. All in all, this interactive app will further civic engagement and helps the community.

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