Palaeontologists describe the prehuman world, a desolate and unrecognizable planet. Our beloved and enslaved earth had a secret, prehuman life. Not only did we not exist, but neither did our countries, continents or oceans. The territorial bases of humans and their nations and identities, geopolitics and religions, which we take so seriously now, were either primordial or absent. Modern humans are so self-involved that they forget that the planet once belonged to itself, a place we would find frightening, an antecessor that pre-existed everything our exploits might control.
Researchers' suggested Hadean landscapes come in hellish and slightly-less-hellish versions, with the moon closer than it is now. The earth may have once had two moons, which impacted to form one captured body. Fission Theory hypothesizes that the moon was part of the earth and was somehow separated from the planet, with the Pacific Ocean basin proposed as the moon's original location. Image Source: The Skeptic's Guide.
The planet originated as a crushed rock in space in the Hadean eon of the Precambrian supereon, 4.6 billion years ago. Earliest life may have appeared roughly 3.8 to 3.5 billion years ago. The first forms of life were bacteria in rock formations known as stromatolites, which are still present in Shark Bay in western Australia. University of California Museum of Paleontology describes the Precambrian's Archaean eon:
The Precambrian supereon is little-known to us, even though it spanned seven-eights of the planet's history.If you were able to travel back to visit the Earth during the Archean, you would likely not recognize it as the same planet we inhabit today. The atmosphere was very different from what we breathe today; at that time, it was likely a reducing atmosphere of methane, ammonia, and other gases which would be toxic to most life on our planet today. Also during this time, the Earth's crust cooled enough that rocks and continental plates began to form.
The Ice House World, or Snowball Earth, showing the supercontinent Rodinia. During this Precambrian Proterozoic eon, the earth underwent a transition to an oxygenated atmosphere. Image Source: Christopher Scotese.
The first hypothesized supercontinent, 'Rodinia' is derived from Russian (Родина), it means the Motherland, existed between 1.1 billion and 750 million years ago. Image Source: J. Goodge / Wiki.
Palaeontologists read earth's deepest history; they have named land masses and bodies of water from our planet's earlier lifetimes. Prehuman geographic names are beautiful and poetic. Some continental cratons, like Laurentia (a large chunk of current-day eastern North America, Iceland and Scotland) have appeared and reappeared in the continental lithosphere in different guises, like guests who keep showing up at local parties after the neighbourhood has been completely redeveloped and all their friends have moved away. These cratons float around and reappear in new continents because they are geologically stable; Laurentia has been a relatively stable piece of land for 600 million years. Another stable craton is Baltica, which first appeared 1.8 billion years ago, and has been part of a dozen different continents, and once served as a continent by itself. Yet another is Amazonia. The Precambrian supereon gave way to the present Phanaerozoic supereon, in these great eras of terran history:
- Proterozoic era, 2500 to 542 million years ago: Two oceans, the Panthalassic and Panasian, surrounded the supercontinent Rodinia.
- Palaeozoic era, 541 to 252.17 million years ago: The great continent Pangaea was still surrounded by the superocean, Panthalassa, with smaller expanses of water - the Palaeo-Tethys and Iapetus Oceans - later forming between separating land masses.
- Mesozoic era, 252 to 66 million years ago: The continents Gondwana and Laurasia were surrounded by the Tethys and Pacific Oceans.
- Cenozoic era, 65 million years ago to the present day: The Age of Mammals and the development of the modern continental world.
Middle Ordovician period in the Palaeozoic era: "During the Ordovician ancient oceans separated the barren continents of Laurentia, Baltica, Siberia and Gondwana. The end of the Ordovician was one of the coldest times in Earth history. Ice covered much of the southern region of Gondwana." Image Source: Christopher Scotese.
Land masses moving north: continents and oceans when dinosaurs roamed the planet: Mesozoic era (252.17-66 million years ago) during the late Jurassic period (Age of Reptiles). Image Source: Global Geology via Christopher Scotese.
Cenzoic continental drift from the Eocene epoch, approaching the Pleistocene epoch, and moving beyond our current modern world into the future, when the Atlantic and Indian Oceans will eventually combine to become an inland lake. Images Source: Christopher Scotese via Randolph College.
Continental couplings and separations show that nations over which people fight and die today have occasionally been jammed up against places now on the other side of the world. On the continental drift timeline, everything around us will one day be dust, or at the bottom of the sea. Despite the huge, anti-human time frames, we still invest the alien earth with cultural significance. This naming convention resembles the naming of new objects discovered in our solar system. In the summer and fall of 2015, the Internet responded to the New Horizons spacecraft's visit to Pluto by naming newly-discovered areas of the planet after characters in Alien, Star Wars and Star Trek.
Close-up of the Middle Ordovician period, shown above. Formation of the microcontinent Avalonia is at the bottom left, in which England and New England, along with parts of Canada and Europe were once combined in one landmass. Image Source: Christopher Scotese via Written in Stone.
Artistic imagining of mystical Avalon. Image Source: Pace University.
Houses in Harbour Main, Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland, Canada. Image Source: Terry's Bayside Getaway.