Did Pangaea Really Exist?

By Kelvin Ma – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19046382

Today, we have seven continents scattered across the globe. North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica. But once upon a time, did all of these continents link together to form one single supercontinent? We call this theorized supercontinent Pangaea, meaning “all land.”

The views expressed in this article reflect those of the author and not necessarily those of New Creation.

How Do We Know Pangaea Even Existed?

We cannot go back and see what the earth’s surface looked like at any given point of time in history. Instead, we must look at the remaining clues here in the present and make inferences about the past. By combining all of the clues, we can assemble what Earth looked like when Pangaea existed.

Pieces of the Puzzle

The first clue people noticed is how the outlines of the continents seem to fit together like pieces in a puzzle, especially along the Atlantic Ocean. We see this most easily with the East coast of South America, which just so happens to fit snuggly along the west coast of Africa. Likewise, the eastern coastline of North America and the western coastline Europe fit almost exactly on top of Africa and South America. They fit together like pieces of a really big puzzle.

Perhaps, it should be no surprise that the first person recorded to have noticed this was a geographer. Abraham Ortilius, Catholic geographer and creator of the first modern atlas, proposed in 1596 that the Americas had been “torn away from Europe and Africa…by earthquakes and floods” at some point in the planet’s past. He added, “The vestiges of the rupture reveal themselves, if someone brings forward a map of the world and considers carefully the coasts of the three [continents].”1

Diamictites

Example of a diamictite deposit.

Another clue has to do with diamictites, a type of sedimentary rock composed of non-sorted or poorly sorted particles ranging in size from clay to boulders and suspended in a matrix of mudstone or sandstone. We can trace certain diamictite deposits that formed at the same time across the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa. Yet, these deposits are absent from the Atlantic Ocean between them. Though generally interpreted as glacial deposits, some geologists have recently argued that they are more consistent with deposits formed by underwater debris flows.2,3 This suggests catastrophic debris flows laid down across South America and Africa before the Atlantic Ocean existed.

Mountains Ranging Around the Globe

This image shows how the continents of eastern North America, Iberia, and Africa came together to form a mountain range as Pangaea came into being.

Imagine the continents  brought back together. The Appalachian Mountains along the eastern coast of North America link up with the Caledonian Mountains of the British Isles and Scandinavia.4 This mountain, too, is absent from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. This must mean that the mountains existed before the creation of the Atlantic Ocean.

Fossils

Another piece to Pangaea’s puzzle are the fossils of similar or identical types of animals and plants dispersed across multiple continents. Yet we never find these fossils  in the ocean floor in between these continents.5 Lystrosaurus is a pig-sized non-mammalian synapsid. We find its fossils in what are today very different parts of the world: India, Antarctica, and South Africa. Fossils of Glossopteris, a type of plant, share much the same range, except we also find it in South America. Fossils of a small, now-extinct, freshwater reptile called Mesosaurus are only found in certain regions of South America and South Africa.

Clearly, these lifeforms did not abruptly appear in all of these same places at the same time. They would have begun in one place before spreading out across their range. While land bridges could explain animals crossing short distances, there is no evidence of land bridges spanning entire oceans. Therefore, this dispersion could only have happened before Pangaea broke apart.

But Do the Continents Really Fit?

Despite the evidence presented above, the scientific community did not immediately embrace the existence. Some critics have pointed out that the edges of modern continents do not precisely interlock when brought together to reconstruct Pangaea.

For example, there is no space for Mexico and Central America to fit in between North America and South America. And North America was rotated clockwise while South America was rotated counterclockwise. Additionally, Africa’s area is actually 35% too large and South America is 20% too small to fit.

The answers to all of these questions came with time. As it happens, the continents themselves have undergone significant changes since their Pangaean days. For example, Central America and much of the western seaboard of North America did not exist until well after Pangaea broke apart. It formed via tectonic activity much later in geologic history.

Pangaea and Young-Earth Creationism

Ever since Christians realized that a supercontinent existed, they have held two main positions on when it divided. The earliest recorded idea suggests Pangaea broke apart in the days of Peleg, one of Noah’s grandchildren living after the Flood. A later idea, most widely accepted today, is that Pangaea broke apart during the global Flood of Noah’s day. Let’s take a closer look at both of these positions.

Pangaea: Divided in the Days of Peleg

Some young-earth geologists propose that Pangaea formed during the Flood and remained intact for some time afterward.6 According to this model, the division of Pangaea took place over a period of at least several hundred years, perhaps during the life of Peleg, one of Noah’s grandchildren. This allowed ample opportunity for animals that survived the Flood aboard the Ark to disperse across the planet without having to cross vast seaways. 

We can trace the idea that Pangaea broke apart after the Flood back to 1756. Theodor Christoph Lilienthal, a German professor of Theology at Königsberg, proposed that Genesis 10:25 contains a reference to the break-up of what we would today call Pangaea. It records that “in the days of Peleg, the earth was divided.”7

Most young-earth geologists do not accept this idea today. One reason is that current physics-based models can only demonstrate continental break-up occurring either very rapidly (see below) or at today’s slow and gradual rate. However, the geophysical requirements for moderate continental movement have not yet been modeled. As such, there is no way presently to make the continents move at the speeds required for this model.

Pangaea: Fractured During Noah’s Flood

Today, most young-earth geologists believe that Pangaea was a temporary supercontinent. It formed and broke apart midway during the Flood, perhaps lasting no more than a few weeks.8 During this time, sedimentary layers full of dead plants and animals accumulated across the continents. 

According to this model, Pangaea was not the first supercontinent; Pangaea itself formed from the pieces of a previous supercontinent. They believe the first supercontinent formed during Creation Week and broke apart earlier during the Flood. We can trace this idea  back to 1858 and a French geographer and scientist named Antonio-Snider Pellegrini. This seems consistent with the form of deep sea crustal movement described in Genesis 7:11 which records the breaking up of the “fountains of the great deep.”

Throughout the duration of its existence, Pangaea was probably mostly or completely covered by water. The water-deposited sandstones formed all around the world at this time provide evidence for this.9 In the 90’s, a team of creation scientists, led by geophysicist Dr. John Baumgardner, developed a model called catastrophic plate tectonics.10 This model explained how the breaking up of Pangaea may have provided a mechanism for how the Flood occurred. Currently, this is the consensus view among young-earth geologists.

Conclusion

There is good evidence that the continents we have today were once joined together to form the supercontinent of Pangaea. By piecing together clues from around the world, geologists have been able to determine what this ancient landmass would have looked like, as well as how and when it may have broken apart.

Footnotes

  1. Kious, W.J.; Tilling, R.I. (2001) [1996]. “‘Historical perspective’. This Dynamic Earth: the Story of Plate Tectonics” (Online ed.). U.S. Geological Survey. ISBN 0-16-048220-8. Retrieved 29 January 2008.; Ortelius, Thesaurus Geographicus (Antwerp, (Belgium): Officina Plantiniana [Plantin Press] 1596), entry: “Gadiricus.” ↩︎
  2. Montañez, I. P., & Poulsen, C. J. (2013). “The Late Paleozoic ice age: an evolving paradigm.” Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 41, 629-656. ↩︎
  3. Molén, M. & Smit,J.(2022). “Reconsidering the glaciogenic origin of Gondwana diamictites of the Dwyka Group, South Africa.” Geologos,28(2): 83-113. ↩︎
  4. Pfeifer, L. S., Soreghan, G. S., Pochat, S., & Van Den Driessche, J. (2021). “Loess in eastern equatorial Pangea archives a dusty atmosphere and possible upland glaciation.” GSA Bulletin, 133(1-2), 379-392. ↩︎
  5. Paleobiology Database, www.pbdb.org, accessed 31 January 2023. ↩︎
  6. Dickens, H. 2022. “A Proposed Model For The Drying And Related Stages Of Noah’s Flood.” Origin Research Journal 2, no. 1: 38-64. ↩︎
  7. Meinhold, G., & Celâl Şengör, A. M. (2019). “A historical account of how continental drift and plate tectonics provided the framework for our current understanding of palaeogeography.” Geological Magazine, 156(2), 182-207. ↩︎
  8. Andrew A. Snelling, “Noah’s Lost World,” Answers 9, no. 2 (April 1, 2014): 80–85. ↩︎
  9. Whitmore, J. H. (2019). “Lithostratigraphic Correlation of the Coconino Sandstone and a Global Survey of Permian “Eolian” Sandstones: Implications for Flood Geology.” Answers Research Journal, 12, 275–328. ↩︎
  10. Austin, S.A., Baumgardner, J.R. Humphreys, R.D., Snelling, A.A., Vardiman, L and Wise, K.P. (1994) “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History,” Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism: Vol. 3, Article 56. ↩︎
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robert byers
robert byers
June 20, 2024 4:54 PM

good article. yes it makes sense there was av perfwxr single continent on creation week. Then simply during the flood it broke up in order to justify the origin for great surges of water which led to segregated sedimentary creations. A strata. Peleg is only about people and the bible has no interest in geolgy. By the way the single continent must of endured the impacts from space rocks before the flood. Actually the genesis account for Eden suggests the world was different

Sonja
Sonja
June 22, 2024 2:10 AM

But how did the continents get such rich animal life? I sat on the edge of my seat for an explanation:)

Paul
Paul
June 23, 2024 10:13 AM
Reply to  Sonja

Sonja, I think one who agrees Earth was at one time one big land mass would probably say, “the animals went with the land they were living on.” For example, the land mass known as Australia today has many different animals, like kangaroos, that live only on its land mass. So when it broke off, you only saw kangaroos on that land mass, now called Australia. And the same can be said about all the other continents. The animals living on the land before it broke off subsequently went with the land mass after the break off. Obviously, similar animals probably lived on more than one land mass….ie, North America and Europe.

I’m not sure I answered your question….I tried. If not, maybe someone else can do better. Cheers.

robert byers
robert byers
June 24, 2024 7:35 PM
Reply to  Paul

Nope. After the flood the land creatures left the ark and filled the earth once more. This creationist insists the creatures that went to australia etc are the same creatures as everywhere back in the day. the creatures upon migration needed to change reproductive tactics and so gained what is called marsupial traits. yet they are not related to each other. its just a local condition. if interestede i wrote a easy called “Post Flood Marsupial migration Explained” by robert Byers. Just google.

robert byers
robert byers
June 24, 2024 7:28 PM
Reply to  Sonja

After the flood the creatures filled the earth again as God commanded. Yet now in segregated lands but shallow and warm enough to move about. a litttle later the water rised somewhat.

Karen
Karen
June 26, 2024 6:05 AM
Reply to  Sonja

After the flood, the animals left the ark and began to reproduce and migrate. The ice age tied up lots of water in frozen form on land, allowing land bridges to be exposed, on which animals were able to cross to other continents.

MikeC711
MikeC711
June 22, 2024 8:21 AM

Great article. I’ve not spent much time thinking about this, but the concept of a single land mass certainly explains a lot of what we observe.

Ernie Samas
Ernie Samas
June 22, 2024 8:51 AM

Check your editing. You have the first reference to the puzzle fitting the ewest coast of South America into the East coast of Africa ….

Steve Holloway
Steve Holloway
June 23, 2024 3:18 AM
Reply to  Ernie Samas

Check your editing as well brother…ewest coast? 😁

Darryl
Darryl
June 22, 2024 9:15 AM

So here is a question. Since all oceans have a bottom, when was there ever a time the land wasn’t connected? Just because something seems like it might fit together doesn’t mean it did. My house and the next door neighbor’s house would probably fit together as well but that doesn’t mean the ground grew up between them. The flood was catastrophic and eroded much land but that doesn’t mean land was totally separated.

P. Lindberg
P. Lindberg
June 22, 2024 9:48 AM

I believe the Earth was created with a flexible crust completely covering a subterranean sea. At the Flood (about 3450 BC) close passes of the planet Mars broke up this crust, allowing the subterranean sea to gush forth, covering all the land. An ice moon of Mars, Glacis, shattered, dropping 5 mile deep ice on the two poles. The next year, another close pass of Mars took half the water, so the tops of the mountains appeared for the Ark to land on. Over the next few hundred years, polar ice dropped the sea level further, forming great glaciers over much of the earth (the Ice Age). Then about 2715 BC a close pass of Saturn stole all our liquid surface water and 3/4 of the fractured crust, leaving only Pangea, the polar ice, and a deep chasm. But Saturn also warmed the Earth, causing the glaciers to begin melting. Melt waters pushed the cracked crust of Pangea apart into the continents we now have, and filled the great chasm (now called the Pacific Ocean). Very brief summary – I detail it in my books on my website: GodsPlanOfTheAges.com.

Chris
Chris
June 23, 2024 5:09 AM
Reply to  P. Lindberg

To people looking for a scientific explanation I suggest Kurt Wise’s presentation “In-depth Explanation of What Caused Noah’s Flood – Dr. Kurt Wise” on YouTube.

S McLaughlin
S McLaughlin
June 22, 2024 10:07 AM

Great article, one I will share with my children! One correction that should be made — “east coast” of South America and “west coast” of Africa fit together.

Madeline Foster
Madeline Foster
June 22, 2024 10:15 AM

good article, makes sense. perhaps there was only one continent that broke up after the flood, the waters bursting forth could have started the split, & the receding waters finished it, but weren’t completely receded until Peleg. That would explain the commonality of the flood story to many parts of the world. I do have a question about one sentence that doesn’t seem finished: “The answers to all of these questions came with time. As it happens, Mexico and Central America did not exist until after Pangaea broke apart. They and the rest of the western edge of North America are ” They and the rest of the western edge of North America are…. what? what are they?

Randy Montgomery
Randy Montgomery
June 22, 2024 11:50 AM

I would think a few comments about the mid-Atlantic Ridge would be in order.

EJM
EJM
June 22, 2024 3:06 PM

There’s a sentence (or more) missing in the section called “But Do the Continents Really Fit?” Is it possible to have this corrected?

Daniel Wolfe
Daniel Wolfe
June 24, 2024 1:11 AM

In your 3rd paragraph you made an obvious mistake – “the west coast of South America, which just so happens to fit snuggly along the east coast of Africa.”
You have your east and west backwards.

Nicole Doran
Nicole Doran
July 4, 2024 4:10 AM

Thanks Christian! glad to get a refresher on this as musical person who doesn’t engage science as much.

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