Late Pleistocene

Subdivisions of the Quaternary System
Age (Ma)
Quaternary Holocene Meghalayan 0 0.0042
Northgrippian 0.0042 0.0082
Greenlandian 0.0082 0.0117
Pleistocene 'Tarantian' 0.0117 0.126
'Chibanian' 0.126 0.773
Calabrian 0.773 1.80
Gelasian 1.80 2.58
Neogene Pliocene Piacenzian 2.58 3.60
Notes and references[1][2]
Subdivision of the Quaternary Period according to the ICS, as of May 2019.[1]

For the Holocene, dates are relative to the year 2000 (e.g. Greenlandian began 11,700 years before 2000). For the beginning of the Northgrippian a date of 8,236 years before 2000 has been set.[2] The Meghalayan has been set to begin 4,250 years before 2000.[1]

'Chibanian' and 'Tarantian' are informal, unofficial names proposed to replace the equally informal, unofficial 'Middle Pleistocene' and 'Upper Pleistocene' subseries/subepochs respectively.

In Europe and North America, the Holocene is subdivided into Preboreal, Boreal, Atlantic, Subboreal, and Subatlantic stages of the Blytt–Sernander time scale. There are many regional subdivisions for the Upper or Late Pleistocene; usually these represent locally recognized cold (glacial) and warm (interglacial) periods. The last glacial period ends with the cold Younger Dryas substage.

The Late Pleistocene is a geochronological age of the Pleistocene Epoch and is associated with Upper Pleistocene (or Tarantian) stage rocks. The beginning of the stage is defined by the base of the Eemian interglacial phase before the final glacial episode of the Pleistocene 126,000 ± 5,000 years ago. Its end is defined at the end of the Younger Dryas, some 11,700 years ago.[3][4] The age represents the end of the Pleistocene epoch and is followed by the Holocene epoch.

Much of the Late Pleistocene age was dominated by glaciations, such as the Wisconsin glaciation in North America and the Weichselian glaciation and Würm glaciation in Eurasia. Many megafauna became extinct during this age, a trend that continued into the Holocene. The Late Pleistocene contains the Upper Paleolithic stage of human development, including the out-of-Africa migration and dispersal of anatomically modern humans and the extinction of the last remaining archaic human species.

Last Ice Age[edit]

The Riss-Würm aka Wisconsin Ice Age began about 80 ka and endured until c. 11.7 ka. It was the Last Glacial Maximum with glaciers reaching the Great Lakes in North America. Northern Europe, including most of Great Britain, was covered by an ice sheet. Sea levels fell and two land bridges were temporarily in existence that had significance for human migration: the Dover Strait and the Bering Strait. When the Last Ice Age ended, marking the boundary between the Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs, man in all parts of the world was still culturally and technologically in the Palaeolithic (Old Stone) Age. Tools and weapons were basic stone or wooden implements. Nomadic tribes followed moving herds. Non-nomadics acquired their food by gathering and hunting.


Neanderthal Man (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) inhabited Eurasia until becoming extinct about 40 ka. Towards the end of the Pleistocene and possibly into the early Holocene, several large mammalian species including the woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, mastodon and Irish elk became extinct.

North America[edit]

From about 28 ka, there were migrations across the Bering Strait land bridge from Siberia to Alaska. The people became the Native Americans. It is believed that the original tribes subsequently moved down to Central and South America under pressure from later migrations.

Bison occidentalis and Bison antiquus, an extinct subspecies of the smaller present-day bison, survived the Late Pleistocene period, between about 12 and 11 ka ago. Clovis peoples depended on these bison as their major food source. Earlier kills of camels, horses, and muskoxen found at Wally's beach were dated to 13.1–13.3 ka B.P.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Cohen, K. M.; Finney, S. C.; Gibbard, P. L.; Fan, J.-X. (May 2019). "International Chronostratigraphic Chart" (PDF). International Commission on Stratigraphy. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b Mike Walker & others (14 June 2018). "Formal ratification of the subdivision of the Holocene Series/Epoch (Quaternary System/Period)" (PDF). Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS). Retrieved 11 November 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help) This proposal on behalf of the SQS has been approved by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) and formally ratified by the Executive Committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).
  3. ^ Mike Walker & others (3 October 2008). "Formal definition and dating of the GSSP, etc" (PDF). Journal of Quaternary Science. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 24 (1): 3–17. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Major Divisions". Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy. International Commission on Stratigraphy. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  5. ^ Michael R. Waters; Thomas W. Stafford Jr.; Brian Kooyman; L. V. Hills (23 March 2015). "Late Pleistocene horse and camel hunting at the southern margin of the ice-free corridor: Reassessing the age of Wally's Beach, Canada". PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1420650112. PMC 4394292.


Further reading[edit]

  • Ehlers, J., and P.L. Gibbard, 2004a, Quaternary Glaciations: Extent and Chronology 2: Part II North America. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 0-444-51462-7
  • Ehlers, J., and P L. Gibbard, 2004b, Quaternary Glaciations: Extent and Chronology 3: Part III: South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica. ISBN 0-444-51593-3
  • Frison, George C., Prehistoric Human and Bison Relationships on the Plains of North America, August 2000, International Bison Conference, Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Gillespie, A. R., S. C. Porter, and B. F. Atwater, 2004, The Quaternary Period in the United States. Developments in Quaternary Science no. 1. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 978-0-444-51471-4
  • Mangerud, J., J. Ehlers, and P. Gibbard, 2004, Quaternary Glaciations : Extent and Chronology 1: Part I Europe. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 0-444-51462-7
  • Sibrava, V., Bowen, D. Q., and Richmond, G. M., 1986, Quaternary Glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere, Quaternary Science Reviews. vol. 5, pp. 1–514.

Paleoclimatology stages[edit]