World History Timeline
The importance of these findings will not be apparent without
an overview of accepted world history to date, for simply pushing back the date
of the first known civilisation by a few thousand years or so is meaningless in
It is now assumed that the universe itself burst into existence some 15
billion years ago. For the first few hundred thousand years matter and
radiation intermingled to form a thick fog. Then, around 300,000 years after
the ‘Big Bang’ temperatures fell and electrons began to bind into hydrogen
and helium nuclei to form the first stable atoms.
Soon the universe began to fill with gas clouds and these eventually formed
galaxies. Four billion years after the Big Bang, these galaxies spawned the
first stars and as these stars aged and collapsed, new generations of stars
were born from newly created elements.
After a further 10 billion years, a small star ignited on the
third spiral arm of our unremarkable galaxy. This star gave light and heat to
dust and rubble caught in its gravitational pull, and from this debris four
rocks formed in gravitational eddies, each attracting other space ‘leftovers’ as
their own gravitational pull developed. The star also led to the formation of
larger ‘gas’ planets further out in its ‘solar’ system.
The first of these rocks, Mercury, became a barren planet, similar to the size
of the Earth’s Moon. It was first photographed in
detail in March 1974 (above, left) by the Mariner 10
spacecraft and, although having craters mountains and ridges,
it’s massive temperature fluctuations, (which can be as high as 425° C on the
equator at noon, and plummeting to -180° C just before sunrise) make for the
existence of life there ‘as we know it’ being more than improbable.
The second rock
from the Sun is Venus. This planet is
the closest to Earth and the brightest object in the sky, apart from the Sun and
Moon. This light is due to its covering of dense clouds that reflect over
three-quarters of the sunlight received by the planet. These clouds actually conceal a deadly atmosphere, for although
the main atmospheric gas is carbon dioxide, traces of other substances have been
detected, including hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide
and hydrochloric acid. The surface (above
right was photographed for the first time in
October 1975 by the then Soviet Spacecraft Venera 9). This showed the planet’s
surface to be rocky with stones scattered across it with what appears to be soil
in between. Conditions on Venus also suggest that it could not support life as
we know it.Then there is the third rock from the Sun. A planet different
from all others in the Solar System; for it is teeming with life, vegetation,
water, and incredible scenery (– at least to human eyes.) The blue planet is almost 8000 miles in diameter, and moves
around the sun in harness with its Moon at a distance of approximately 93
Images from space show the familiar face of the planet, however
the continents have not always occupied their current positions. Up to 225
million years ago, most of the land on the planet was combined into one
‘super-continent’ named ‘Pangaea’ by geologists. This composite land-mass made for the easy and rapid spreading
of life forms and vegetation. See opposite for how Pangaea broke up into our
current continental structure.
The planet’s historical periods have been broken down by geologists
into the pre-Cambrian period (4600-590 millions of years ago) when there were
few fossils. The Paleozoic (590-225 millions), by the end of which reptiles were
dominant. This period also saw a major extinction when many species of plants
and animals died out.
The Mesozoic period (225-65 millions) ended with the Earth
probably being struck by a huge asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and allowed
mammals to dominate through the subsequent Cenozoic period which ended two
million years ago with modern type animals scattered across the planet surface. Throughout its history, the planet has also seen many
ice-ages, with the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska (right) formerly reaching well
into the United States and as far south as present day London, England during
the last of these periods.
Until the 18th
Century however, few were curious about the planet’s history, nor did many
question the tradition that all life on it had been created in 4004 BCE; a date
calculated by Archbishop Ussher, who merely added up the ages of figures in the
Christian Bible back to Adam and Eve.