landmass comprising more than one continental core, or craton

A supercontinent is a large area of land which has more than one continental core, or craton. They are formed by continental plates coming together. Continental plates have periodically collided and assembled in periods of orogeny (mountain-building) to form supercontinents. The cycle of supercontinents forming, breaking up, separating, and re-forming through plate tectonics happens about every 2000 million years.

Eurasia is certainly a supercontinent, but the Americas are usually thought of as separate continents. Even more clearly, Gondwana and Laurasia were supercontinents formed by the breakup of the global supercontinent Pangaea.

The land bridge between North and South America is geologically a rather temporary connection. Because of this, the Americas are usually not described as one supercontinent.

Ancient supercontinentsEdit

Throughout Earth's history, there have been many supercontinents. In order of age (oldest to newest), the ancient supercontinents were:

Supercontinent name Age (Ma) Period/Era Range Comment
Vaalbara 3,636–2,803 Eoarchean-Mesoarchean Also known as a supercraton or just a continent[1]
Ur 2,803–2,408 Mesoarchean-Siderian Known as both a continent[2] and a supercontinent[3]
Kenorland 2,720–2,114 Neoarchean-Rhyacian The continents may have also formed into two groupings Superia and Sclavia[4][5]
Arctica 2,114–1,995 Rhyacian-Orosirian Not generally known as a supercontinent, depending on definition[2]
Atlantica 1,991–1,124 Orosirian-Stenian Not generally known as a supercontinent, depending on definition[2]
Columbia (Nuna) 1,820–1,350 Orosirian-Ectasian [4]
Rodinia 1,130–750 Stenian-Tonian [4]
Pannotia 633–573 Ediacaran [4]
Gondwana 550–175 Ediacaran-Jurassic From the Carboniferous, formed part of Pangaea,[5] not always known as a supercontinent[6]
Pangaea 336–175 Carboniferous-Jurassic


  1. de Kock, M.O.; Evans, D.A.D.; Beukes, N.J. (2009). "Validating the existence of Vaalbara in the Neoarchean" (PDF). Precambrian Research. 174 (1–2): 145–154. Bibcode:2009PreR..174..145D. doi:10.1016/j.precamres.2009.07.002.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Rogers, J.J.W.; Santosh, M. (2002). "Configuration of Columbia, a Mesoproterozoic Supercontinent" (PDF). Gondwana Research. 5 (1): 5–22. Bibcode:2002GondR...5....5R. doi:10.1016/S1342-937X(05)70883-2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-03.
  3. Mahapatro, S.N.; Pant, N.C.; Bhowmik, S.K.; Tripathy, A.K.; Nanda, J.K. (2011). "Archaean granulite facies metamorphism at the Singhbhum Craton–Eastern Ghats Mobile Belt interface: implication for the Ur supercontinent assembly". Geological Journal. 47 (2–3): 312–333. doi:10.1002/gj.1311.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Nance, R.D.; Murphy, J.B.; Santosh, M. (2014). "The supercontinent cycle: A retrospective essay". Gondwana Research. 25 (1): 4–29. Bibcode:2014GondR..25....4N. doi:10.1016/
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bradley, D.C. (2011). "Secular Trends in the Geologic Record and the Supercontinent Cycle". Earth-Science Reviews. 108 (1–2): 16–33. Bibcode:2011ESRv..108...16B. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2011.05.003.
  6. Evans, D.A.D. (2013). "Reconstructing pre-Pangean supercontinents" (PDF). GSA Bulletin. 125 (11–12): 1736. Bibcode:2013GSAB..125.1735E. doi:10.1130/B30950.1.