Friday, February 6, 2009

The Great Ages of History

How to classify the historical eras in a way that makes sense? Of course, there's the big 3: Ancient, Modern, and The Middle Ages but as I try to keep historical cultures straight in my poor little brain, more detail is needed. My trouble is that as I look to how other historians classify historical eras, their nomenclature does not make sense. - What is archaic about the "Archaic Era" anyway? As for the "Age of Enlightenment", well.

What precipitated this essay was prehistory. How to make sense of it all? One is overwhelmed by the sheer mass of time and the evolution of both life and the planet. Scientists classify time into epochs, eras, and ages but these classifications confuse more than help. They seem to describe geology rather than help comprehend the significant attributes of the period.

While a decent classification of prehistory ought to include the interesting changes in the planet (e.g. the changes in climate or the movement of the continents), the historian's perspective emphasizes the changes in life. So, herewith is my modest attempt to keep history straight - all of history - from the time of the Big Bang to the present day.

20 B - 4.6 BAge of Cosmology
4.6 B - 600 MAge of Geology
600 M - 400 MAge of Fish
400 M - 250 MAge of Animals
250 M - 65 MAge of Dinosaurs
65 M - 200,000Age of Mammals
200,000 - 110,000Age of Early Man
110,000 - 20,000Ice Age
20,000 - 10,000Warming Age
10,000 - 3000Agricultural Age
3000 - 1000Bronze Age
1000 - 500Iron Age
500 BC - 1 ADClassical Age
1 - 500 ADRoman Age
500 - 1000Dark Age
1000 - 1500Medieval Age
1500 - 2000European Age
2000 -Information Age

The 500 year intervals of recorded history do seem to fit. I do not believe in the traditional dividing dates (such as 476 A.D.) because they imply an exactitude that is not real. I like to use traditional names as much as possible but I departed when there's a name that more appropriately describes the age. I also like to use just one description, "age" in the interests of simplicity.

I explain my thinking on these various ages in other places on this blog. Click on the titles.

The picture is Herodotus, the first great historian.

In the dates, "M" = Million Years Ago; "B" = Billion Years Ago.


Ted Dobracki said...

How do we know that your so called Information Age is the dominant historical force that is occurring now, never mind that it will remain so for the next few centuries? Maybe it will be the Asian age....or the Global Warming Flood Age......or the Ice Age for that matter?