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  • The second period of the Cenozoic era, following the Tertiary; also, the corresponding system of rocks. It began two to three million years ago and extends to the present. It consists of two grossly unequal epochs: The Pleistocene, up to about 8,000 years ago, and the Holocene since that time. The Quaternary was originally designated an era rather than a period, with the epochs considered to be periods, and it is still sometimes used as such in the geologic literature. The Quaternary may also be incorporated into the Neogene, when the Neogene is designated as a period of the Tertiary era.