600 Million Years In A Flash
It's important to get some time perspective, don't you think? Like arriving at your holiday resort, and having a good walk around on the first evening to get your bearings. So:
600 million years ago this bit of rock we call Britain was south of the equator, and covered in tropical forests that subsequently fossilised into coal deposits.
Recent modelling has shown that the asteroid that created a 10km-wide crater in Mexico 65 million years ago reduced sunlight by 15% for several years, and that was enough to end dinosaurs' 175 million year 'rule' as the dominant species on the planet. Had it reduced sunlight by 10% they would have survived. Similarly, 13,000 years ago a comet exploded over Canada, and caused a firestorm from California to Belgium that killed off most of the megafauna including mastodons, mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers and giant bears.
25 million years ago huge land masses crunched together forming the Caledonian mountain range that includes Snowdonia, the Lake District and Scottish Highlands, and was originally as high as the Himalayas.
About 7 million years ago humans divided off from chimpanzees, yet our DNA is still 98.8% identical. Look, though, at how much 'progress' we have made, while chimpanzees have made none. Why? We needed to survive out in the savanna among the megafauna. Staying in the forest, they didn't. Human progress was forced upon us by the need to survive.
Hominid species were stuck in the Old Stone Age for a surprisingly long time: 700,000 years. Only 150,000 years ago did Anatomically Modern Humans develop in Africa, and even 100,000 years ago there were seven or eight hominin species including Homo sapiens.
The most recent ice age lasted from about 120,000 to 16,000 years ago, so, for over 100,000 years the Usk glacier flowed off the Brecon Beacons east and south through what is now Sennybridge, Crickhowell, and Abergavenny down to Usk, while the Tywi glacier flowed over Llandovery and Llandeilo down to Carmarthen.
But it wasn't all ice and desolation. Off and on for 16,000 years (40 to 24,000 years ago, so during the last Ice Age), the 30 metre long Coygan Cave near Laugharne was a den for spotted hyaena, and bones were found of cave lion, hippopotamus, woolly rhinoceros, horse, mammoth, giant ox (bison), reindeer, elk, wolf, and bear.
Homo sapiens shared Europe with Neanderthals for at least 8,000 years. In Britain, the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens is about 43,000 years ago at Kent's Cavern, near Torquay, and Neanderthals were living on what is now the Channel Islands until at least 40,000 years ago, so we know that we humans and Neanderthals lived together in Britain for at least 3,000 years.
Finally, almost bringing us up to date, 8,200 years ago a huge submarine landslide in Norway - the Storegga Slide - caused a tsunami that drowned Doggerland in the North Sea, and made us an island.