The Eoarchean ( /ˌiːoʊ.ɑːrˈkiːən/; also spelled Eoarchaean) is the first era of the Archean Eon of the geologic record for which the Earth has a solid crust. It spans 400 million years from the end of the Hadean Eon 4 billion years ago (4000 Mya) to the start of the Paleoarchean Era 3600 Mya. The beginnings of life on Earth have been dated to this era and evidence of cyanobacteria date to 3500 Mya, just outside this era. At that time, the atmosphere was without oxygen and the pressure values ranged from 10 to 100 bar (around 10 to 100 atmospheres).[1][2][3]

Eoarchean Eon
4000–3600 million years ago
-4500 —
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Garnet paragneiss Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt, 4.28 Ga
Garnet paragneiss, Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt, Canada. 4.28 Ga old: the oldest known Earth rock of which direct samples are available.
Greenlandite (fuchsite-quartz gneiss), Greenland
Eoarchaean (3.8 b.y.) Greenlandite specimen (fuchsite-quartz gneiss), Nuup Kangerlua, Greenland.


The Eoarchean was formerly officially unnamed and informally referred to as the first part of the Early Archean or Paleoarchean Era, both now obsolete names.

The International Commission on Stratigraphy now officially recognizes the Eoarchean Era as the first part of the Archaean Eon, preceded by the Hadean Eon, during which the Earth is believed to have been essentially molten.

The Eoarchaean's lower boundary or starting point of 4 Gya (4 billion years ago) is officially recognized by the International Commission on Stratigraphy.[4]

The name comes from two Greek words: eos (dawn) and archaios (ancient). The first supercontinent Vaalbara appeared around the end of this period at about 3,600 million years ago.


A characteristic of the Eoarchean is that Earth possessed a firm crust for the first time. However, this crust may have been incomplete at many sites and areas of lava may have existed at the surface. The beginning of the Eoarchean is characterized by heavy asteroid bombardment within the inner solar system: the Late Heavy Bombardment. The largest Eoarchean rock formation is the Isua Greenstone Belt on the south-west coast of Greenland and dates from 3.8 billion years. The Acasta Gneiss within the Canadian Shield have been dated to be 4,031 Ma and are therefore the oldest preserved rock formations. In 2008, another rock formation was discovered in the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt in northern Québec Canada which has been dated to be 4,280 million years ago.[5] These formations are presently under intense investigation.[6]


3,850 million years old Greenland apatite shows evidence of 12C enrichment. This has sparked a debate whether there might have been photosynthetic life before 3.8 billion years.[7]

Proposed subdivisions

  • Eoarchean Era — 4031–3600 MYA
    • Acastan Period — 4031–3810 MYA
    • Isuan Period — 3810–3600 MYA[8]

See also


  1. ^ Mulkidjanian, A. Y. (2009). "On the origin of life in the zinc world: 1. Photosynthesizing, porous edifices built of hydrothermally precipitated zinc sulfide as cradles of life on Earth". Biol. Direct. 4: 26. doi:10.1186/1745-6150-4-26. PMC 3152778. PMID 19703272.
  2. ^ Mulkidjanian, A. Y.; Bychkov, A. Y.; Dibrova, D. V.; Galperin, M. Y.; Koonin, E. V. (2012). "Origin of first cells at terrestrial, anoxic geothermal fields". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 109 (14): E821–30. Bibcode:2012PNAS..109E.821M. doi:10.1073/pnas.1117774109. PMC 3325685. PMID 22331915.
  3. ^ Mulkidjanian, A. Y. (2011). "Energetics of the First Life". In Egel, R.; Lankenau, D.-H.; Mulkidjanian, A. Y. (eds.). Origins of Life: The Primal Self-Organization. Heidelberg: Springer Verlag. pp. 3–33. ISBN 978-3-642-21625-1.
  4. ^ "International Chronostratigraphic Chart v.2013/01" (PDF). International Commission on Stratigraphy. January 2013. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  5. ^ O'Neil, J.; Carlson, R. W.; Francis; D.; Stevenson, R. K. (2008). "Neodymium-142 Evidence for Hadean Mafic Crust". Science. 321 (5897): 1828–1831. Bibcode:2008Sci...321.1828O. doi:10.1126/science.1161925. PMID 18818357.
  6. ^ David, J.; Godin, L.; Stevenson, R. K.; O'Neil, J.; Francis, D. (2009). "U-Pb ages (3.8–2.7 Ga) and Nd isotope data from the newly identified Eoarchean Nuvvuagittuq supracrustal belt, Superior Craton, Canada". Geological Society of America Bulletin. 121 (1–2): 150–163. doi:10.1130/B26369.1.
  7. ^ Mojzsis, S. J.; Arrhenius, G.; McKeegan, K. D.; Harrison, T. M.; Nutman, A. P.; Friend, C. R. L. (1996). "Evidence for life on Earth before 3,800 million years ago" (PDF). Nature. 384 (6604): 55–59. Bibcode:1996Natur.384...55M. doi:10.1038/384055a0. hdl:2060/19980037618. PMID 8900275.
  8. ^ Van Kranendonk, Martin J. (2012). "16: A Chronostratigraphic Division of the Precambrian: Possibilities and Challenges". In Felix M. Gradstein; James G. Ogg; Mark D. Schmitz; abi M. Ogg (eds.). The geologic time scale 2012 (1st ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier. pp. 359–365. ISBN 978-0-44-459425-9.

Further reading

External links

Cambrian Series 2

Cambrian Series 2 is the unnamed 2nd series of the Cambrian. It lies above the Terreneuvian series and below the Miaolingian. Series 2 has not been formally defined by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, lacking a precise lower boundary and subdivision into stages. The proposed lower boundary is the first appearance of trilobites which is estimated to be around 521 million years ago.

Cambrian Stage 3

Cambrian Stage 3 is the still unnamed third stage of the Cambrian. It succeeds Cambrian Stage 2 and precedes Cambrian Stage 4, although neither its base nor top have been formally defined. The plan is for its lower boundary to correspond approximately to the first appearance of trilobites, about 521 million years ago, though the globally asynchronous appearance of trilobites warrants the use of a separate, globally synchronous marker to define the base. The upper boundary and beginning of Cambrian Stage 4 is informally defined as the first appearance of the trilobite genera Olenellus or Redlichia around 514 million years ago.

Cambrian Stage 4

Cambrian Stage 4 is the still unnamed fourth stage of the Cambrian and the upper stage of Cambrian Series 2. It follows Cambrian Stage 3 and lies below the Wuliuan. The lower boundary has not been formally defined by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. One proposal is the first appearance of two trilobite genera, Olenellus or Redlichia. Another proposal is the first appearance of the trilobite species Arthricocephalus chauveaui. Both proposals will set the lower boundary close to 514 million years ago. The upper boundary corresponds to the beginning of the Wuliuan.


The Chattian is, in the geologic timescale, the younger of two ages or upper of two stages of the Oligocene epoch/series. It spans the time between 28.1 and 23.03 Ma. The Chattian is preceded by the Rupelian and is followed by the Aquitanian (the lowest stage of the Miocene).

Early Earth

The early Earth (sometimes referred to as Gaia, named for the Ancient Greek goddess) is loosely defined as Earth in its first one billion years, or gigayear. On the geologic time scale, this comprises all of the Hadean eon (starting with the formation of the Earth about 4.6 billion years ago), as well as the Eoarchean (starting 4 billion years ago) and part of the Paleoarchean (starting 3.6 billion years ago) eras of the Archean eon.

This period of Earth's history involved the planet's formation from the solar nebula via a process known as accretion. This time period included intense meteorite bombardment as well as giant impacts, including the Moon-forming impact, which resulted in a series of magma oceans and episodes of core formation. After formation of the core, delivery of meteoritic or cometary material in a "late veneer" may have delivered water and other volatile compounds to the Earth. Although little crustal material from this period survives, the oldest dated specimen is a zircon mineral of 4.404 ± 0.008 Ga enclosed in a metamorphosed sandstone conglomerate in the Jack Hills of the Narryer Gneiss Terrane of Western Australia. The earliest supracrustals (such as the Isua greenstone belt) date from the latter half of this period, about 3.8 gya, around the same time as peak Late Heavy Bombardment.

According to evidence from radiometric dating and other sources, Earth formed about 4.54 billion years ago. Within its first billion years, life appeared in its oceans and began to affect its atmosphere and surface, promoting the proliferation of aerobic as well as anaerobic organisms. Since then, the combination of Earth's distance from the Sun, its physical properties and its geological history have allowed life to emerge, develop photosynthesis, and, later, evolve further and thrive. The earliest life on Earth arose at least 3.5 billion years ago. Earlier possible evidence of life includes graphite, which may have a biogenic origin, in 3.7-billion-year-old metasedimentary rocks discovered in southwestern Greenland and 4.1-billion-year-old zircon grains in Western Australia.

Eoarchean geology

Eoarchean geology is the study of the oldest preserved crustal fragments of Earth during the Eoarchean era from 4 to 3.6 billion years ago. Major well-preserved rock units dated Eoarchean are known from three localities, the Isua Greenstone Belt in Southwest Greenland, the Acasta Gneiss in the Slave Craton in Canada, and the Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt in the eastern coast of Hudson Bay in Quebec. From the dating of rocks in these three regions scientists suggest that plate tectonics could go back as early as Eoarchean.

All 3 regions contain an abundance of Archean felsic volcanic rocks, including tonalite, trondhjemite and granodiorite (TTG) series rocks, with minor granulite to amphibolite facies gneiss complexes, which means that the original characters of the rocks has been disturbed by at least one ductile deformation at deep crustal conditions.Eoarchean geology is important in investigating earth's tectonic history. It is because the earth had just undergone an transformation to the present-day-similar convective mode and lithosphere from a magma ocean in Hadean Eon, to either a protoplate tectonics or an unstable stagnant lithosphere lid at its infant stages. The earth's condition during Archean to Proterozoic (including Eoarchean era) serves as a crucial linkage between Hadean magma ocean to present-day plate tectonics. Various interpretations have been suggested to explain the prevalent tectonic style corresponding to Eoarchean geology. However it can be, in general, classified into two tectonic models, which are vertical tectonics and plate tectonics.Explanation on the release of large amount of mantle heat is the prominent concern. Most of the evidences shows a probability that pre-plate tectonics dominantly involved intense surface volcanism, active magmatism and crustal recycling.

Era (geology)

A geologic era is a subdivision of geologic time that divides an eon into smaller units of time. The Phanerozoic Eon is divided into three such time frames: the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic (meaning "old life", "middle life" and "recent life") that represent the major stages in the macroscopic fossil record. These eras are separated by catastrophic extinction boundaries, the P-T boundary between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic and the K-Pg boundary between the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic. There is evidence that catastrophic meteorite impacts played a role in demarcating the differences between the eras.

The Hadean, Archean and Proterozoic eons were as a whole formerly called the Precambrian. This covered the four billion years of Earth history prior to the appearance of hard-shelled animals. More recently, however, the Archean and Proterozoic eons have been subdivided into eras of their own.

Geologic eras are further subdivided into geologic periods, although the Archean eras have yet to be subdivided in this way.


In stratigraphy, paleontology, geology, and geobiology an erathem is the total stratigraphic unit deposited during a certain corresponding span of time during an era in the geologic timescale.

It can therefore be used as a chronostratigraphic unit of time which delineates a large span of years — less than a geological eon, but greater than its successively smaller and more refined subdivisions (geologic periods, epochs, and geologic ages). By 3,500 million years ago (mya) simple life had developed on earth (the oldest known microbial fossils in Australia are dated to this figure). The atmosphere was a mix of noxious and poisonous gases (Methane, Ammonia, Sulphur compounds, etc.— a so-called reducing atmosphere lacking much free oxygen which was bound up in compounds).

These simple organisms, Cyanobacteria ruled the still cooling earth for approximately a thousand million (over a billion) years and gradually transformed the atmosphere to one containing free oxygen. These changes, along with tectonic activity left chemical trails (red bed formation, etc.) and other physical clues (magnetic orientation, layer formation factors) in the rock record, and it is these changes along with the later richer fossil record which specialists use to demarcate times early in planet earth's history in various disciplines.

Erathems are not often used in practice. While they are subdivisions of eonothems and are themselves subdivided into systems, dating experts prefer the finer resolution of smaller spans of time when evaluating strata.

Erathems have the same names as their corresponding eras.

The Phanerozoic eonothem can thus be divided into a

Cenozoic, a Mesozoic and a Paleozoic erathem or matching era name.Similarly, the Proterozoic eonothem is divided youngest to oldest into the

Neoproterozoic, Mesoproterozoic and Paleoproterozoic erathems,

and the Archean eon and eonothem are divided similarly into the

Neoarchean, Mesoarchean, Paleoarchean and the Eoarchean, for which a lower (oldest) limit is undefined.


The Furongian is the fourth and final series of the Cambrian. It lasted from 497 to 485.4 million years ago. It succeeds the Miaolingian series of the Cambrian and precedes the Lower Ordovician Tremadocian stage. It is subdivided into three stages: the Paibian, Jiangshanian and the unnamed 10th stage of the Cambrian.

Geology of India

The geology of India is diverse. Different regions of India contain rocks belonging to different geologic periods, dating as far back as the Eoarchean Era. Some of the rocks are very deformed and altered. Other deposits include recently deposited alluvium that has yet to undergo diagenesis. Mineral deposits of great variety are found in the Indian subcontinent in huge quantity. Even India's fossil record is impressive in which stromatolites, invertebrates, vertebrates and plant fossils are included.

India's geographical land area can be classified into the Deccan Traps, Gondwana and Vindhyan.

The Deccan Traps covers almost all of Maharashtra, a part of Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh marginally. During its journey northward after breaking off from the rest of Gondwana, the Indian Plate passed over a geologic hotspot, the Réunion hotspot, which caused extensive melting underneath the Indian Craton. The melting broke through the surface of the craton in a massive flood basalt event, creating the Deccan Traps. It is also thought that the Reunion hotspot caused the separation of Madagascar and India.

The Gondwana and Vindhyan include within its fold parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. The Gondwana sediments form a unique sequence of fluviatile rocks deposited in Permo-Carboniferous time. The Damodar and Sone river valleys and Rajmahal hills in eastern India contain a record of the Gondwana rocks.

The Geological Survey of India has published the List of National Geological Monuments in India.

Isua Greenstone Belt

The Isua Greenstone Belt is an Archean greenstone belt in southwestern Greenland. The belt is aged between 3.7 and 3.8 billion years. The belt contains variably metamorphosed mafic volcanic and sedimentary rocks. The occurrence of boninitic geochemical signatures, characterized by extreme depletion in trace elements that are not fluid mobile, offers evidence that plate tectonic processes in which lithic crust is melted may have been responsible for the creation of the belt. Another theory posits that the belt formed via a process known as vertical plate tectonics.In 2016 melting snow revealed putative 3.7-billion-year-old stromatolite fossils, which would be the oldest by several hundred million years thus far discovered on Earth. If confirmed, the discovery of complex stromatolite structures at Isua so early in the history of the Earth would suggest that life first evolved on Earth over 4 billion years ago. There is currently debate over whether the specimens are indeed biogenic, which has been disputed by another research team that visited the site.


The Katian is the second stage of the Upper Ordovician. It is preceded by the Sandbian and succeeded by the Hirnantian stage. The Katian began 453 million years ago and lasted for about 7.8 million years until the beginning of the Hirnantian 445.2 million years ago.

Late Heavy Bombardment

The Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), or lunar cataclysm, is a hypothesized event thought to have occurred approximately 4.1 to 3.8 billion years (Ga) ago, at a time corresponding to the Neohadean and Eoarchean eras on Earth. During this interval, a disproportionately large number of asteroids are theorized to have collided with the early terrestrial planets in the inner Solar System, including Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Since 2018, the existence of the Late Heavy Bombardment has been questioned.The Late Heavy Bombardment happened after the Earth and other rocky planets had formed and accreted most of their mass, but still quite early in Earth's history.

Evidence for the LHB derives from lunar samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts. Isotopic dating of Moon rocks implies that most impact melts occurred in a rather narrow interval of time. Several hypotheses attempt to explain the apparent spike in the flux of impactors (i.e. asteroids and comets) in the inner Solar System, but no consensus yet exists. The Nice model, popular among planetary scientists, postulates that the giant planets underwent orbital migration and in doing so, scattered objects in the asteroid and/or Kuiper belts into eccentric orbits, and into the path of the terrestrial planets. Other researchers argue that the lunar sample data do not require a cataclysmic cratering event near 3.9 Ga, and that the apparent clustering of impact-melt ages near this time is an artifact of sampling materials retrieved from a single large impact basin. They also note that the rate of impact cratering could differ significantly between the outer and inner zones of the Solar System.


The Miaolingian is the third Series of the Cambrian period, and was formally named in 2018. It lasted from about 509 to 497 million years ago and is divided into 3 stages: the Wuliuan, the Drumian, and the Guzhangian. The Miaolingian is preceded by the unnamed Cambrian Series 2 and succeeded by the Furongian series.

Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt

The Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt (NGB) is a sequence of metamorphosed mafic to ultramafic volcanic and associated sedimentary rocks (a greenstone belt) located on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay, 40 km southeast of Inukjuak, Quebec. These rocks have undergone extensive metamorphism, and represent some of the oldest rocks on Earth.

Two papers dating the age of the Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt have been published. One paper gave an age of ca. 3,750 million years ago (mya), while the other gave an age of ca. 4,388 mya. In March 2017, the age of the Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt was still unresolved.In March 2017, a published report gave evidence for fossils of microorganisms in these rocks, which would be the oldest trace of life yet discovered on Earth.


The Sandbian is the first stage of the Upper Ordovician. It follows the Darriwilian and is succeeded by the Katian. Its lower boundary is defined as the first appearance datum of the graptolite species Nemagraptus gracilis around 458.4 million years ago. The Sandbian lasted for about 5.4 million years until the beginning of the Katian around 453 million years ago.

Timeline of natural history

This timeline of natural history summarizes significant geological and biological events from the formation of the Earth to the arrival of modern humans. Times are listed in millions of years, or megaanni (Ma).


The Zirconian is the second Era within the Hadean Eon in a proposed revision of the Precambrian time scale. It lasted 373 million years from the end of the Chaotian Era 4,404 million years ago to the beginning of Eoarchean Era 4,031 million years ago. The Zirconian follows the Chaotian Era and its beginning is chronometrically set at 4.404 ± 0.008 Gya. This corresponds to the age of the first occurrence of Hadean zircons in the Jack Hills in Western Australia (Yilgarn craton). The end of the Zirconian Era and the transition to the Acastan Period (the earliest period of the Archean Eon and Eoarchean Era) occurred with the appearance of the oldest rock at 4.031 ± 0.003 Gya.

Cenozoic era
(present–66.0 Mya)
Mesozoic era
(66.0–251.902 Mya)
Paleozoic era
(251.902–541.0 Mya)
Proterozoic eon
(541.0 Mya–2.5 Gya)
Archean eon (2.5–4 Gya)
Hadean eon (4–4.6 Gya)


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