Time Periods

Christopher Columbus cartoon
Ferdinand Magellan and James Cook cartoon

Ancient Exploration

5,000 BCE to 476 CE

This time period covers the rise of earliest civilizations such as Pre-dynastic Egypt, China, Sumer and Mesopotamia to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE.

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Medieval Exploration

5th century to early 15th century

This time period typically begins with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and includes bubonic plague (black death), the rise of Islam, the Crusades and the beginning of the Renaissance.

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Age of Discovery

15th century to the early 17th century

This time period covers explorations of Africa and the Americas by Christopher Columbus and other European explorers, the search for the Northwest Passage, and advancements in cartography, navigation and shipbuilding.

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Modern Exploration

Late 17th century to the present

This time period includes James Cook’s exploration of the Pacific Ocean including Australia, New Zealand, and the Hawaiian Islands; the exploration of the Arctic Circle and Antarctica; and present-day voyages to the deepest parts of the ocean.

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