Earth History, Part One, Pangaea

Someone said you learn the story of the single supercontinent Pangaea in the fourth grade. Did you? Well if I did I’ve forgotten it.

History for me and probably still for most of us began a few thousand years ago in the Middle East. Before that there were the dinosaurs, of course, but not much else. Why is it that the history of the earth is so little known?

PANGAEA BEGINS TO BREAK UP. This is actually recent earth history, given the earth’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago, but maybe good place to start.

Image: Artwork showing the Earth at the time Pangaea broke up (credit: Mikkel Juul Jensen/Bonnier Publications/SPL)


Pangaea (or Pangea) is the most recent of a series of supercontinents on Earth. It was formed only about 270 million years ago and broke apart about 70 million years later. At its formation most of the dry land on Earth was joined into one huge landmass that covered nearly a third of the planet’s surface. The giant ocean that surrounded Pangaea is known as Panthalassa.

At the present time I live in Tampa, Florida, and I often go to Paris. Now of course there’s an ocean between us, but at that earlier time, the rocks of Paris and Tampa must have been parts of the same landmass, all those 200 million plus years ago, with no intervening ocean. And while there was life, dinosaurs certainly and alligators, there were yet no men.

What if man had had his beginnings on Pangaea, that single landmass or continent? Would his story, our story have been different? Or given our own history of not being able to get along peacefully with one another we probably would not have survived the closeness of living on a single land mass. It may even be that our much later arrival, following the breakup of Pangaea into single continents separated by oceans, has enabled us to survive as long as we have, a few hundred thousands if not yet millions of years.

Will we continue to survive? Our times are interesting because we are growing closer to one another once again, this time by means of technology, not the movement of tectonic plates, forming once again a single Pangaea, although this time not a single supercontinent or land mass, but a single internet fed “mind mass.”

Here is a Map of ‘Pangea’ with Current International Borders. I’ve been trying so far without success to locate Tampa and Paris on the map. Perhaps if there were a Google map? But Google hasn’t yet found a way of mapping the past, or the future. Google is only present time, that which is over even before we manage a second look.

Map by via Reddit

Pangaea began to break up some 200 million years and today there are some 7343 km of mostly North Atlantic ocean separating Paris from Tampa. And the break-up of Pangea is still going on. We are still moving apart, some 3 inches per year, but given our 80+ year lifespan we don’t notice it.



A last question. Is it even possible to locate on a map of Pangaea such as the one above, the coordinates of the two pieces of earth that would hundreds of millions of years later become Paris and Tampa? Probably not. Maybe a Quora question?

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