The official history of Earth has a new chapter – and we are in it.
Geologists have classified the last 4,200 years as being a distinct age in the story of our planet.
They are calling it the Meghalayan Age, the onset of which was marked by a mega-drought that crushed a number of civilisations worldwide.
The International Chronostratigraphic Chart, the famous diagram depicting the timeline for Earth’s history (seen on many classroom walls) will be updated.
It should be said, however, there is disquiet in the scientific community at the way the change has been introduced. Some researchers feel there has been insufficient discussion on the matter since the Meghalayan was first raised as an idea in a scholarly paper six years ago.
Geologists divide up the 4.6-billion-year existence of Earth into slices of time.
Each slice corresponds to significant happenings – such as the break-up of continents, dramatic shifts in climate, and even the emergence of particular types of animals and plant life.
We currently live in what is called the Holocene Epoch, which reflects everything that has happened over the past 11,700 years – since a dramatic warming kicked us out of the last ice age. But the Holocene itself can be subdivided, according to the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS).
It is the official keeper of geologic time and it proposed three stages be introduced to denote the epoch’s upper, middle and lower phases.
These all record major climate events. The Meghalayan, the youngest stage, runs from 4,200 years ago to the present. It began with a destructive drought, whose effects lasted two centuries, and severely disrupted civilisations in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and the Yangtze River Valley.