The time path

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Sep 01 2013

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Category: Europe, Switzerland

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At the beginning of this millennium the Swiss city of Neuchâtel laid out a path through time in the nearby woods – Le Sentier du Temps. Its starting point was meant to mark the origin of our planet Earth and the end point our present time. Each step of one meter was equal to one million years, so the path was 4.5 kilometers in length. Important ‘moments’ in the evolution of life on Earth were marked along the route and illustrated by 17 sculptures in wood. The first four kilometers hardly anything was to be shown. All the sculptures were packed in the last 600 meter, starting with the Redlichia, tiny animals of the trilobite genus that lived between 600 – 505 million years ago as one of the first forms of animal life on Earth. 500 Million years later and almost at the end of the path, we reach the Australopithecus, which is portrayed on the photo above. It is one of the first hominids that lived in the Pliocene, 5 – 2 million years ago. The sculpture shows him walking upright with a stick in his hand. This makes him look already fairly human. We are at the very beginning of the journey of man on Earth, which counts for the last 5 meters of the 4.5 kilometer path.

On the photo below we pause at a much earlier phase in the evolution, at about 300 meter before the end of the path. It is the Carboniferous period, from 360 to 286 million years ago. The warm and humid climate at the time favoured abundant vegetation in which large insects developed (Meganeura, with a wingspan of up to 70 cm), and also the first reptiles (Hylonomus).

Suisse, Neuchatel, Aug. 2001 -Blog column size

Between Meganeura and Hylonomus we see a fine, present-day specimen of Homo Sapiens: a wonderful female of Indian origin, and the love of the second half of my life.

Photo of the week: Australopithecus, Le Sentier du Temps, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 2001

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