Team finds Earth’s ‘oldest rocks’

By | September 29, 2008

Earth’s most ancient rocks, with an age of 4.28 billion years, have been found on the shore of Hudson Bay, Canada.

Writing in Science journal, a team reports finding that a sample of Nuvvuagittuq greenstone is 250 million years older than any rocks known.

It may even hold evidence of activity by ancient life forms.

If so, it would be the earliest evidence of life on Earth – but co-author Don Francis cautioned that this had not been established.

“The rocks contain a very special chemical signature – one that can only be found in rocks which are very, very old,” he said.

The professor of geology, who is based at McGill University in Montreal, added: “Nobody has found that signal any place else on the Earth.” …

Before this study, the oldest whole rocks were from a 4.03 billion-year-old body known as the Acasta Gneiss, in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

The only things known to be older are mineral grains called zircons from Western Australia, which date back 4.36 billion years. … They sent samples for chemical analysis to scientists at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who dated the rocks by measuring isotopes of the rare earth elements neodymium and samarium, which decay over time at a known rate.

The oldest rocks, termed “faux amphibolite”, were dated within the range from 3.8 to 4.28 billion years old. – bbc

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