The Eocene epoch (55.8 ± 0.2 - 33.9 ± 0.1 Ma) is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene period in the Cenozoic era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Paleocene epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene epoch. The start of the Eocene is marked by the emergence of the first modern mammals. The end is set at a major extinction event called Grande Coupure (the "Great Break" in continuity), which may be related to the impact of one or more large bolides in Siberia and in what is now Chesapeake Bay. As with other geologic periods, the strata that define the start and end of the epoch are well identified, though their exact dates are slightly uncertain.
The name Eocene comes from the Greek ἠώς (eos, dawn) and καινός (kainos, new) and refers to the "dawn" of modern ('new') mammalian fauna that appeared during the epoch.
The Eocene epoch is usually broken into Early and Late, or - more usually - Early, Middle, and Late subdivisions. The corresponding rocks are referred to as Lower, Middle, and Upper Eocene. The Faunal stages from youngest to oldest are:
- Priabonian (37.2 ± 0.1 – 33.9 ± 0.1 Ma)
- Bartonian (40.4 ± 0.2 – 37.2 ± 0.1 Ma)
- Lutetian (48.6 ± 0.2 – 40.4 ± 0.2 Ma)
- Ypresian (55.8 ± 0.2 – 48.6 ± 0.2 Ma)
The Ypresian and occasionally the Lutetian constitute the Lower, the Priabonian and sometimes the Bartonian the Upper subsection; alternatively, the Lutetian and Bartonian are united as the Middle Eocene.