In June 2009, the Executive Committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) formally ratified a proposal by the International Commission on Stratigraphy to lower the base of the Quaternary System/Period to the Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) of the Gelasian Stage/Age at Monte San Nicola, Sicily, Italy. The Gelasian until then had been the uppermost stage of the Pliocene Series/Epoch. The base of the Gelasian corresponds to Marine Isotope Stage 103, and has an astronomically tuned age of 2.58 Ma. A proposal that the base of the Pleistocene Series/Epoch be lowered to coincide with that of the Quaternary (the Gelasian GSSP) was also accepted by the IUGS Executive Committee. The GSSP at Vrica, Calabria, Italy, which had hitherto defined the basal boundary of both the Quaternary and the Pleistocene, remains available as the base of the Calabrian Stage/Age (now the second stage of the revised Pleistocene). In ratifying these proposals, the IUGS has acknowledged the distinctive qualities of the Quaternary by reaffirming it as a full system/period, correctly complied with the hierarchical requirements of the geological timescale by lowering the base of the Pleistocene to that of the Quaternary, and fully respected the historical and widespread current usage of both the terms ‘Quaternary’ and ‘Pleistocene’. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.