How Earth’s continents have shifted: Interactive map lets you travel back in time to see our planet over 600 million years of its history

  • ‘Ancient Earth Globe’ reveals how the continents have split and reformed across 600 million years of history
  • It gives you views of Earth’s surface from the first appearence of life through to the planet as we know it today
  • Users can see how our planet looked when plants appeared or when the Age of the Dinosaurs drew to a close 
  • The map was built by a former Google engineer using research data from Northern Arizona University  
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A new interactive map lets you travel back in time to view our planet as it appeared millions of years ago.

‘Ancient Earth Globe’ reveals how the continents have split and reformed while oceans advanced and receded across 600 million years of the planet’s history.

The map was built using research from Northern Arizona University and reveals that humans are ‘just a blip in history’, according to the former Google engineer behind it.

Ian Webster, who now works for asteroid database Asterank in Mountain View, California, told MailOnline: ‘I want people to learn that Earth has a long past that nearly defies imagination.

‘The Earth went through so many phases in which it was fundamentally different from the way it is today. Humans are just a blip in history.’

The website gives you views of the planet as it looked from 600 million years ago, when the first multicellular life appeared, through several key points in Earth’s history.

It allows you to jump back and forth from the extinction of the dinosaurs to the appearance of the first hominids – the primate family that includes humans and our fossil ancestors.

Summaries of each period reveal what was happening at different stages, such as the Late Triassic period 200 million years ago, or the Early Cambrian period 540 million years ago.

Of particular interest is the formation of Pangea around 280 million years ago, when all of Earth’s landmass were clustered as a single super continent that was surrounded by one ocean, Panthalassa.




‘Ancient Earth Globe’ reveals how the continents have split and reformed while oceans advanced and receded across 600 million years of the planet’s history. This image shows how the planet looked during the Jurassic period (left) and when the first primates appeared (right)


The map was built using research from Northern Arizona University and reveals that humans are ‘just a blip in history’, according to the former Google engineer behind it. Pictured is the Earth as it appeared 430 million years ago


The website gives you views of the planet as it looked from 600 million years ago, when the first multicellular life appeared (pictured), through several key points in Earth’s history

The East Coast of the United States would have bordered North Africa while America’s Gulf Coast was nestled against Cuba.

Also of interest is the end of the Cretaceous period – the extinction of the dinosaurs – 65 million years ago.

At this time Africa had a huge ocean channelling down its north eastern edge, while Australia and Antarctica were almost touching.


The first hominids emerged in Africa during the Neocene Period around 20 million years ago. The ape-like ancestors would eventually go on to form the human race among a number of other human-like species such as Neanderthals. Pictured is the Earth when hominids first appeared on the planet




The first dinosaurs walked the Earth 220 million years ago during the Middle Triassic (pictured). At this point in time the Earth was recovering from the Permian-Triassic extinction. Therapsids and archosaurs emerged, along with the first flying invertebrates


Also of interest is the end of the Cretaceous period – the extinction of the dinosaurs – 65 million years ago (pictured). At this time Africa had a huge ocean channelling down its north eastern edge, while Australia and Antarctica were almost touching

Mr Webster told MailOnline: ‘It’s also interesting how Europe and the central US used to be under oceans, as that affects modern day geology and palaeontology.’

The software engineer created the interactive map as a handy educational tool for younger generations. 

He said: ‘I decided to make this map because I think ancient history and geology is fascinating.

‘It can be difficult to conceptualise what Earth used to look like. Putting this knowledge in a format we’re all used to – an interactive globe – goes a long way toward creating an educational tool for geological history.’


Of particular interest is the formation of Pangea around 280 million years ago (pictured), when all of Earth’s landmass formed a single super continent that was surrounded by one ocean, Panthalassa

WHEN WERE EARTH’S ‘BIG FIVE’ EXTINCTION EVENTS?

Traditionally, scientists have referred to the ‘Big Five’ mass extinctions, including perhaps the most famous mass extinction triggered by a meteorite impact that brought about the end of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. 

But the other major mass extinctions were caused by phenomena originating entirely on Earth, and while they are less well known, we may learn something from exploring them that could shed light on our current environmental crises.

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