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The Pleistocene epoch is part of the geologic timescale, usually dated as 1.6 million to 10,000 radiocarbon years before present. This is often converted to 1.8 million to 11,000 calendar years, based on an approximate radiocarbon callibration. 11,000 years before 1950 is -9050 (or 9051 BC).

The Pleistocene follows the Pliocene epoch and is followed by the Holocene epoch. The Pleistocene is the first of the two epochs of the Quaternary Era.

As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define the start and end are well identified, but the exact dates of the start and end of the period are slightly uncertain. The Pleistocene was originally intended to cover the recent period of repeated glaciations, however, the start was set too late and some early cooling and glaciation are now set in the Pliocene. Some would prefer a period of 2.5 million to 11,000 radiocarbon years BP.

There are no Faunal stages defined for the Pleistocene or Holocene.

Continents were at essentially their modern positions during the Pleistocene.

Both marine and continental faunas were essentially modern. Humans evolved into modern man during the Pleistocene.

The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.