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, a patch of land would one day become the National Mall. That land was part of an enormous supercontinent. It was known as Pangea. It encompassed nearly all of Earth's extant land mass. But Pangea bore little resemblance to 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 interactive map. But, the map only dates back to 750 million years ago.

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

Ancient Earth is the tool behind this millennia-spanning map. It is the brainchild of Ian Webster. He is the curator of the world's largest digital dinosaur database. Michael D'estries reported for Mother Nature Network. He said Webster drew on data from the PALEOMAP Project. It was spearheaded by palaeogeographer Christopher Scotese. The initiative tracks the evolving "distribution of land and sea" over the past 1,100 million years. That's what they used to build the map.

Users can input a specific address. They can also input a more generalized region, such as a state or country. Then they choose a date. It must range from zero to 750 million years ago. Currently, 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 an array of helpful navigational features. These include toggle display options related to globe rotation. It also includes lighting and cloud coverage. Brief descriptions of chosen time periods pop up on the bottom left side of the screen. A dropdown menu at the top right allows users to jump to specific milestones in history. These include the arrival of Earth's first multicellular organisms some 600 million years ago. And it includes early hominids' relatively belated emergence around 20 million years ago.

You can 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. That's advice from Michele Debczak 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 today.

Fast Company's Jesus Diaz outlines several insights revealed by Ancient Earth. One example is from 750 million years ago. It shows that Midtown Manhattan was 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 shows that New York City pops up as a tiny island. It is in the southern hemisphere. In that same view London is still part of Pangea. It 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." That's what Webster wrote in a comment 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."

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


COMMENTS (32)
  • Weston-E2
    9/24/2019 - 10:33 a.m.

    wow an app that can tell you were anything was 750 million years ago. I think that this is really cool. and this would have taken so long to make this app. I think this
    because to give right statements you would need to have a lot
    of correct data

  • Stella-dun
    9/24/2019 - 09:55 p.m.

    I think that this map is a fun way for students to possibly learn about how Earth has changed over 750 million years. It lets people see what either their hometown or their favourite city might have looked like millions of years ago. Although this function is still just an estimate it is still correct. We know that Earth has changed a lot since the Cryogenian time period, for example, this just gives us a better understanding of how much our home has evolved.

  • JadenW-dun
    9/26/2019 - 05:02 a.m.

    I believe that this could be useful for geography and knowing where you live looked like many years ago. It doesn't seem that useful in the end because it is specific to that location.

  • Hank-dun
    9/26/2019 - 09:19 a.m.

    I feel it is a really good invention/idea, that has been invented. it can be really helpful for certain a different way. I fell like this can teach geography well with this map/inversion. cause it is hard to explain only by words or some flat non-moving maps.

  • Jasmine-dun1
    9/29/2019 - 08:23 a.m.

    I think this map is very good, because this gives everyone a chance to understand the changes that the earth has changed from a long time ago to the present. I have also learned more about the evolution of land and sea. And it’s also very meaningful to know more about ancient geography.

  • kristynf-
    9/30/2019 - 01:55 p.m.

    The biggest benefit of the map is probably how you can see the earth from 500 million years ago. It is probably most important because you get to learn about the past.

  • justinag-
    9/30/2019 - 01:56 p.m.

    This a cool idea because it shows how much places and houses there were from the past 750 million years and how it has it has increased.

  • samanthaf-14
    9/30/2019 - 02:02 p.m.

    This app gives us an idea of what earth was before humans. All the continents used to be conjoined cause one big super continent. The app shows where each part of continents fit.

  • alexiss-7
    9/30/2019 - 02:05 p.m.

    the biggest benefit of this map is people can learn more about earths history instead of dwelling on theories.

  • laurenw-4
    9/30/2019 - 02:17 p.m.

    The biggest benefit of the map is that you can see what your house looked like before or what has changed and has been updated throughout the years.

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