What Is an Epoch?

An epoch is a period of time in history or prehistory, usually lasting several hundred years. It is typically used to refer to the divisions of geologic time periods, such as the Jurassic and Cretaceous Epochs. An epoch can also be used to describe any significant event or series of events that marks an important turning point in human history. For example, historians often refer to the Industrial Revolution as “the epoch” because it marked a major shift from manual labor-based production methods to machine-driven manufacturing processes.

Epochs are generally divided into smaller units called ages which further divide up each era into more specific categories based on changes in climate, technology, culture and other factors. The most commonly recognized age system was developed by 19th century geologist Charles Lyell who divided Earth’s history into four main eras: Paleozoic (541 million – 252 million years ago), Mesozoic (252 million – 66 million years ago), Cenozoic (66 million years ago – present) and Quaternary (2.6 million years ago – present). Each era is then broken down further into different epochs with their own unique characteristics and defining features that help us better understand our planet’s past and how it has evolved over time.

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