Since its identification nearly fifty years ago, Marine Isotope Stage 5 (MIS 5) has been placed onto absolute time scales on the basis of three independent approaches. Cesare Emiliani, who set up the isotope stages (Emiliani, 1955), depended on uranium-series dating of the sediments, a method that today is regarded as not generally capable of yielding useful precision or accuracy. Broecker and van Donk (1970) pioneered the approach of correlating to radiometrically dated marine coral terraces; this has been much aided in recent years by improvements in the precision and accuracy of these age determinations that have flowed from the development of thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) for uranium-series dating (Edwards et al., 1986). The third approach is to use the astronomical record as a guide to the time scale. Martinson et al. (1987) generated a detailed time scale for MIS 5 using this approach. These authors suggested that the overall average error was of the order ±5000 yr, although the error would be smaller during interglacial periods with high precession-related variability, such as MIS5. At that time, the suggested confidence limits were smaller than typical values quoted for the radiometric dating of corals (typically ±6000 yr). Today the accuracy of the time scale of Martinson et al. (1987) is challenged by high-precision TIMS dates with quoted uncertainties of the order ±1000 yr or better. From the point of view of achieving a better understanding of the last interglacial period, the more serious disadvantage of the Martinson et al. (1987) time scale is the underlying hypothesis that all the proxy palaeoclimate records represent smoothly varying responses to changes in insolation; hence, there is no basis for estimating the duration of an extended interval with northern ice sheet volumes static at a size no greater than at present. From this point of view, the model of Gallée et al. (1993) is more promising, but that model is not at present sufficiently realistic to provide a reliable independent time scale. We have therefore chosen to depict the oxygen isotope record of core MD95-2042 (37°48′N, 10°10′W, water depth of 3146 m) on a time scale (Shackleton et al., 2001) that is based only on making use of selected radiometric dates obtained from fossil corals to calibrate the isotope record.