The complex history of European Neogene mammal chronology is reviewed. Resulting in an a posteriori classification of systems into a stratigraphic and a faunal ‘school of thought’. The divergence of opinions on stratigraphic/chronologic matters, which has continued up to the present day, can largely be attributed to the specific nature of the mammal record, which is characterized by a relatively poor degree of stratigraphic control, by large sampling errors, and by a considerable degree of both provinciality and diachrony. A solution is proposed in the form of a dual system, on the one hand based on the dense and well-calibrated Spanish record, and on the other hand on a system of European reference localities. The reference localities could be discrete levels on an ordinal scale or boundaries on a continuous faunal scale. Local calibrations and quantitative interpolation techniques (using as much faunal information as possible) should be used to tie the European locality scale to the Spanish mammal zonation.