Initial Publication Date: March 19, 2009

Geologic Time

Initially compiled by Laurie Cantwell, Montana State University

This section highlights animations, images, interactive graphics and videos used to teach the concept of geologic time in an introductory geology course. Visualizations cover the specific topics of earth history, relative age dating and life through geologic time.

Click here to browse the complete set of Visualization Collections.


Earth History

ChronoZoom (more info) ChronoZoom is a free, open source interactive timeline tool for learning about all kinds of history, stretching back all 13.7 billion years to the Big Bang. Users can seamlessly scroll through different parts of history and zoom in for more detail and related resources.
Graphical Representation of Geologic Time (more info) An illustration of the 4.5 billion year old Earth's time scale shown as a spiral with pictorial representations of both marine and terrestrial life.
Observe an animation showing growth of a continent. (more info) A visualization showing the growth of a continent through terrane accretion at a convergent boundary.
Continental Drift (more info) Animation and interactive timeline illustrating continental drift from the Precambrian to Cenozoic.

The PLATES Project (more info) Contains animations of plate tectonic movement through geologic history (under the headings 'Reconstructions' and 'Movies'). Several maps with plate motion arrows are shown under the heading of 'Teaching'. Lawrence Lawver and Ian Dalziel of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) are Principal Investigators of the PLATES Project.

Telling Time: Relative Age Dating

Observe an animation showing the formation of an unconformity. ( This site may be offline. ) An animation depicting the formation of an unconformity in the rock record. This animation shows an angular unconformity-one where the layers above and below the unconformity are not parallel to each other, but form an angle.

Changes of life on Earth

Observe how fossils can form ( This site may be offline. ) Find a Flash animation by Exploring Earth showing the formation of a fossil cast and mold. The sequence, which in reality can take thousands or millions of years, is sped up to a few seconds beginning first with burial and then exposure of the cast (actual copy of the creature) and the mold (the hollow impression formed by the creature). The animation can be rewound to stress important points.

A Virtual Museum of Fossils (more info) An interactive map and geologic timeline display of fossils and the geologic environments in which they lived.