Paleogeography of Europe

The paleogeographic maps of Europe were completed in January 2011 after two years of data gathering and map making. The maps were compiled from many sources (see references) and do not follow any single model (I am unaware of any model that traces European history over 600 Ma). Rather, the maps represent compilations and compromises from the geologic literature. Particular attention was paid to making sure that tectonic and geologic events between adjacent time slices made geologic, geographic (space issues), and tectonic sense.

The newer global series of maps, Global Paleogeography and Tectonics in Deep Time (2016) use newer plate models than were available when the Europe Series was completed. These differences are most noticeable during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic in the Alpine/Mediterranean regions.
Highlights of the geologic history presented in the paleogeographic maps include:

  • Ediacaran opening and rapid early Paleozoic spreading of Iapetus Oean and subsequent stages of closing marked by fringing island arcs along both Laurentia and Baltica
  • Classic Baltica-Laurentia-Avalonia collision to close the Iapetus and form the Caledonian-Acadian orogeny
  • A two-ocean (Rheic to north, Moldanubian-Paleotethys to south) model for the Variscan orogeny with a ribbon microcontinent between the two oceans — Armorica (or Hun) superterrane — that was caught between the convergence of Baltica and Africa
  • The importance of the African promontory and its position fastened to Africa during the Variscan orogeny
  • A Variscan/Pangaean Europe with a fixed African promontory that faced the Paleotethys and Neotethys oceans and securely filled the apex between Europe and Africa
  • The rifting of terranes from Gondwana and the African promontory to close the Paleotethys, open the Neotethys, and generate the Cimmerian (senso latto) orogeny
  • The African promontory rifted from stable Europe in the Jurassic as the Alpine (Penninic-Piemont) Ocean opened
  • Most of the African promontory remained attached to Africa until the late Mesozoic and Cenozoic — its dismemberment during the Cretaceous and Cenozoic and subsequent collision with stable Europe was a major factor in the various phases of the Eoalpine-Alpine orogeny
  • As Africa was forced towards Europe during the opening of the Atlantic, the Alpine Ocean and the eastern Tethys Ocean and its various arms were closed and the Alpine orogeny was generated

Paleogeography of Europe Map List

27 Total Time Slices

Present00 Ma
Pleistocene021 Ka
Miocene13 Ma
Oligocene25 Ma
Eocene50 Ma
Cretaceous75 Ma100 Ma125 Ma
Jurassic150 Ma175 Ma200 Ma
Triassic225 Ma
Permian-Triassic250 Ma
Permian275 Ma
Pennsylvanian300 Ma
Mississippian325 Ma350 Ma
Devonian375 Ma400 Ma
Silurian425 Ma
Ordovician450 Ma475 Ma
Cambrian500 Ma525 Ma
Ediacaran550 Ma575 Ma600 Ma

Europe Series Thumbnails