The Precambrian is the name which describes the large span of time in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic
The Phanerozoic Eon is the current eon in the geologic timescale, and the one during which abundant animal life has existed. It covers roughly 542 million years and goes back to the time when diverse hard-shelled animals first appeared...

 Eon, and is a Supereon divided into several eons of the geologic time scale
Geologic time scale
The geologic time scale provides a system of chronologic measurement relating stratigraphy to time that is used by geologists, paleontologists and other earth scientists to describe the timing and relationships between events that have occurred during the history of the Earth...

. It spans from the formation of Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 around 4600 Ma (million years) ago to the beginning of the Cambrian
The Cambrian is the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era, lasting from Mya ; it is succeeded by the Ordovician. Its subdivisions, and indeed its base, are somewhat in flux. The period was established by Adam Sedgwick, who named it after Cambria, the Latin name for Wales, where Britain's...

 Period, about 542 Ma, when macroscopic hard-shelled animals first appeared in abundance. The Precambrian is so named because it precedes the Cambrian, the first period of the Phanerozoic Eon, which is named after Cambria
Cambria is the classical name for Wales, being the Latinised form of the Welsh name Cymru . The etymology of Cymry "the Welsh", Cimbri, and Cwmry "Cumbria", improbably connected to the Biblical Gomer and the "Cimmerians" by 17th-century celticists, is now known to come from Old Welsh combrog...

, the classical name for Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, where rocks from this age were first studied.