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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Pleistocene \Pleis"to*cene\, a. [Gr. ? most + ? new.] (Geol.) Of or pertaining to the epoch, or the deposits, following the Tertiary, and immediately preceding man. -- n. The Pleistocene epoch, or deposits.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"pertaining to the glacial period," 1839, coined by Lyell from Greek pleistos "most" (superlative of polys "much;" see poly-) + -cene.


The Pleistocene (; symbol PS) is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.

Charles Lyell introduced this term in 1839 to describe strata in Sicily that had at least 70% of their molluscan fauna still living today. This distinguished it from the older Pliocene Epoch, which Lyell had originally thought to be the youngest fossil rock layer. He constructed the name "Pleistocene" ("Most New" or "Newest") from the Greek πλεῖστος, pleīstos, "most", and καινός, kainós ( latinized as cænus), "new"; this contrasting with the immediately preceding Pliocene ("More New" or "Newer", from πλείων, pleíōn, "more", and kainós; usual spelling: Pliocene), and the immediately subsequent Holocene ("wholly new" or "entirely new", from ὅλος, hólos, "whole", and kainós) epoch, which extends to the present time.

The Pleistocene is the first epoch of the Quaternary Period or sixth epoch of the Cenozoic Era. In the ICS timescale, the Pleistocene is divided into four stages or ages, the Gelasian, Calabrian, Ionian and Tarantian. All of these stages were defined in southern Europe. In addition to this international subdivision, various regional subdivisions are often used.

Before a change finally confirmed in 2009 by the International Union of Geological Sciences, the time boundary between the Pleistocene and the preceding Pliocene was regarded as being at 1.806 million years before the present, as opposed to the currently accepted 2.588 million years BP: publications from the preceding years may use either definition of the period.

Usage examples of "pleistocene".

There was little doubt that the first humans to enter the Americas came via the Bering Land Bridge, expanding into new territory and hunting the large Pleistocene mammals as they had done in the Old World where there were numerous, well-documented archeological sites.

During this period numerous caves were located and excavated, Pleistocene-age river terraces and sand dunes were surveyed and tested for archeological remains, fossil shorelines of lakes were examined, and thick deposits of windblown silt, or loess, deposited during the Pleistocene were searched for evidence of former human activity.

The remaining unanswered question is whether the peoples who occupied these archeological sites thousands of years ago shared a similar economic system based, at least to a large degree, on hunting mammoth and other extinct Pleistocene animals.

Lower Pleistocene Crags were described as being artifacts, such as the flints, some flaked bifacially, in the Red Crag near Ipswich, and the so-called rostro-carinates from the base of the Norwich Crag near Norwich.

Lower Pleistocene Crags were described as being artifacts, such as the flints, some flaked bifacially, in the Red Crag near Ipswich, and the so-called rostrocarinates from the base of the Norwich Crag near Norwich.

The major question asked by paleoecologists is whether the fossils recovered from the numerous Pleistocene exposures represent biocenoses, i.

Since Crocuta crocuta is present at Tongzi, this limits the oldest age of the Tongzi fauna to the beginning of the middle Middle Pleistocene.

In summary, using Megatapirus augustus and Crocuta crocuta as marker fossils, we can conclude that the probable date range for the Homo sapiens fossils found at Tongzi extends from the beginning of the middle Middle Pleistocene to the end of the late Middle Pleistocene.

Some authorities are willing to extend the date to about 30,000 years ago, while an increasing minority are reporting evidence for a human presence in the Americas at far earlier dates in the Pleistocene.

One of the most spectacular pre-industrial extinction events was that of the Pleistocene megafauna -- the saber-toothed cats, mammoths, dire wolves, giant ground sloths, glyptodonts, and all those other animals familiar from museum dioramas.

One branch of Australopithecus is thought to have given rise to Homo habilis around 2 million years ago, at the beginning of the Pleistocene period.

This opens the possibility that the humanlike femurs once attributed to Homo habilis might have belonged to anatomically modern human beings living in East Africa during the Early Pleistocene.

Oakley found the Castenedolo bones had a nitrogen content similar to that of bones from Late Pleistocene and Holocene Italian sites and thus concluded the Castenedolo bones were recent.

Day and Molleson showed that Holocene and Late Pleistocene beds at other sites in Java contained bones with fluorine-to-phosphate ratios similar to those of the Trinil bones.

This is consistent with all of the bones being of the same early Middle Pleistocene age, although Day and Molleson did report that nitrogen in bone is lost so rapidly in Java that even Holocene bones often have no nitrogen.