The Paleoarchean (/ˌpeɪlioʊɑːrˈkiːən/), also spelled Palaeoarchaean (formerly known as early Archean), is a geologic era within the Archaean Eon. It spans the period of time 3,600 to 3,200 million years ago—the era is defined chronometrically and is not referenced to a specific level of a rock section on Earth. The name derives from Greek "Palaios" ancient. The oldest ascertained life form of fossilized bacteria in microbial mats, 3,480 million years old, found in Western Australia, is from this era.[1][2] The first supercontinent Vaalbara formed during this period.

During this era, a large asteroid, about 37 to 58 kilometres (23–36 mi) wide, collided with the Earth in the area of South Africa about 3.26 billion years ago, creating the features known as the Barberton greenstone belt.[3]

Paleoarchean Eon
3600–3200 million years ago
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Stromatolithe Paléoarchéen - MNHT.PAL.2009.10.1
A stromatolite formed by Paleoarchean miocrobial mats, preserved as a fossil, from Pilbara craton, Western Australia


  1. ^ Borenstein, Seth (13 November 2013). "Oldest fossil found: Meet your microbial mom". AP News. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  2. ^ Noffke, Nora; Christian, Daniel; Wacey, David; Hazen, Robert M. (8 November 2013). "Microbially Induced Sedimentary Structures Recording an Ancient Ecosystem in the ca. 3.48 Billion-Year-Old Dresser Formation, Pilbara, Western Australia". Astrobiology. 13 (12): 1103–24. doi:10.1089/ast.2013.1030. PMC 3870916. PMID 24205812. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  3. ^ “Scientists reconstruct ancient impact that dwarfs dinosaur-extinction blast”, American Geophysical Union, April 9, 2014

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Barberton Greenstone Belt

The Barberton Greenstone Belt, also known as the Makhonjwa Mountains, is situated on the eastern edge of Kaapvaal Craton in South Africa. It is known for its gold mineralisation and for its komatiites, an unusual type of ultramafic volcanic rock named after the Komati River that flows through the belt. Some of the oldest exposed rocks on Earth (greater than 3.6 Ga) are located in the Barberton Greenstone Belt of the Swaziland–Barberton areas and these contain some of the oldest traces of life on earth. Only the rocks found in the Isua Greenstone Belt of Western Greenland are older.

In April 2014, scientists reported finding evidence of the largest terrestrial meteor impact event to date near the Barberton Greenstone Belt. They estimated the impact occurred about 3.26 billion years ago (during the Paleoarchean period of the Archean eon of the Precambrian supereon) and that the impactor was approximately 37 to 58 kilometers (23 to 36 miles) wide, roughly five times larger than the impactor responsible for the Chicxulub crater in the Yucatán Peninsula, which was around the size of Mount Everest. The gigantic impactor was estimated to have collided with the Earth at a speed of 20 kilometers per second (12 miles per second), releasing an enormous amount of energy and triggering magnitude 10.8 earthquakes across the planet, as well as generating megatsunamis thousands of meters high. The crater from this event, if it still exists, has not yet been found.The Barberton Greenstone Belt consists of a sequence of mafic to ultramafic lavas and metasedimentary rocks emplaced and deposited between 3.5 and 3.2 Ga. The granitoid rocks were emplaced over a 500-million-year time span and can be divided into two suites: The tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG) suite (emplaced approximately 3.5–3.2 Ga), and the granite–monzogranite–syenite granite (GMS) suite (emplaced approximately 3.2–3.1 Ga). The GMS suite are found over large parts of the Kaapvaal Craton and their emplacement coincides with the first stabilisation of the central parts of the craton. "The GMS suite in the Barberton granite-greenstone terrane shows very different internal and external characteristics from the earlier TTG suite. Individual plutons may cover several thousand square kilometres and these composite granitoid bodies have traditionally been referred to as batholiths, alluding to their compositionally and texturally heterogeneous nature and enormous areal extent. For the most part, the plutons appear undeformed." (Westraat et al., 2005).

The Barberton area underwent two tectonic episodes of terrane accretion at about 3.5 and 3.2 Ga. Early stages of shield development are exposed in the Barberton Mountains where the continent formation first took place by magmatic accretion and tectonic amalgamation of small protocontinental blocks. Several small diachronous blocks (3.6–3.2 Ga) have been found in the area. Apparently each block represents a cycle of arc-related magmatism and sedimentation. The Hooggenoeg Formation of the Barberton Greenstone Belt is dated at 3.45 Ga. and evolved through magmatism. This crustal development phase was followed by a period of Mesoarchaean cratonic magmatism (3.1–3.0 Ga) and is marked by the formation of a large crescent-shaped, juvenile arc that was accreted onto the northern and western margins of the evolving Kaapvaal shield. Archaean greenstone belts are hypothesized to have been formed from passive margin oceanic crust that became part of an extensive subduction-undercut margin. The TTG intrusions are thought to have been formed by post-subduction magmatism when subduction was halted, perhaps by arrival of a micro-craton.

The 3.1 Ga Mpuluzi batholith in the Barberton granite–gneiss terrane is made up of granite sheets. The structurally higher parts are underlain by an anastomosing network of steeply dipping, variably deformed dikes and sheets. According to a study done by Westraat et al. (2005): "Multiple intrusive relationships and geochronological evidence suggests that granite sheeting and the assembly of the pluton occurred over a period of 3–13 million years. The spatial and temporal relationship between deformation and magma emplacement reflects episodes of incremental dilation related to deformation along the bounding shear zones and granite sheeting. The transition to the mainly subhorizontal granite sheets at higher structural levels of the tabular Mpuluzi batholith indicates the intrusion of the granites during subhorizontal regional shortening, where the reorientation of the minimum normal stress to vertical attitudes at the shallow levels of emplacement allowed for vertical dilation and subhorizontal emplacement of the granite sheets."

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.


The Eoarchean ( ; 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).

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.


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.

Last universal common ancestor

The last universal common ancestor (LUCA), also called the last universal ancestor (LUA), or concestor, is the most recent population of organisms from which all organisms now living on Earth have a common descent, the most recent common ancestor of all current life on Earth. (A related concept is that of progenote.) LUCA is not thought to be the first life on Earth but only one of many early organisms, all the others becoming extinct.

While there is no specific fossil evidence of LUCA, it can be studied by comparing the genomes of all modern organisms, its descendants. By this means, a 2016 study identified a set of 355 genes most likely to have been present in LUCA. (However, some of those genes could have developed later, then spread universally by horizontal gene transfer between archaea and bacteria.) The genes describe a complex life form with many co-adapted features, including transcription and translation mechanisms to convert information from DNA to RNA to proteins. The study concluded that the LUCA probably lived in the high-temperature water of deep sea vents near ocean-floor magma flows.

Studies from 2000 to 2018 have suggested an increasingly ancient time for LUCA. In 2000, estimations suggested LUCA existed 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago in the Paleoarchean era, a few hundred million years after the earliest fossil evidence of life, for which there are several candidates ranging in age from 3.48 to 4.28 billion years ago. A 2018 study from the University of Bristol, applying a molecular clock model, places the LUCA shortly after 4.5 billion years ago, within the Hadean.Charles Darwin first proposed the theory of universal common descent through an evolutionary process in his book On the Origin of Species in 1859: "Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed." Later biologists have separated the problem of the origin of life from that of the LUCA.

Most recent common ancestor

In biology and genealogy, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA, also last common ancestor (LCA), or concestor) of any set of organisms is the most recent individual from which all the organisms from such set are directly descended. The term is also used in reference to the ancestry of groups of genes (haplotypes) rather than organisms.

The MRCA of a set of individuals can sometimes be determined by referring to an established pedigree. However, in general, it is impossible to identify the exact MRCA of a large set of individuals, but an estimate of the time at which the MRCA lived can often be given. Such time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) estimates can be given based on DNA test results and established mutation rates as practiced in genetic genealogy, or by reference to a non-genetic, mathematical model or computer simulation.

In organisms using sexual reproduction, the matrilinear MRCA and patrilinear MRCA are the MRCAs of a given population considering only matrilineal and patrilineal descent, respectively. The MRCA of a population by definition cannot be older than either its matrilinear or its patrilinear MRCA.

In the case of Homo sapiens, the matrilinear and patrilinear MRCA are also known as "Mitochondrial Eve" (mt-MRCA) and "Y-chromosomal Adam" (Y-MRCA) respectively.

The age of the human MRCA is unknown. It is necessarily younger than the age of both Y-MRCA and mt-MRCA, estimated at around 200,000 years.

The Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) is the most recent common ancestor of all current life on Earth, estimated to have lived some 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago (in the Paleoarchean).

Muséum de Toulouse

The Muséum de Toulouse, Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de la ville de Toulouse (abbreviation: MHNT) is a museum of natural history in Toulouse, France. It is located in the Busca-Montplaisir, and houses a collection of more than 2.5 million items and has some 3 000 square metres of exhibition space. Its Index Herbariorum code is TLM.


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.

South Pass greenstone belt

The South Pass greenstone belt (2.8 Ga) is located within the Wyoming craton in the US. The region was the site of Wyoming's initial gold discovery in 1842.


The Swazian is a poorly defined geological stage in South Africa extending from about four billion years ago to 3 billion years ago [1], encompassing some of the Hadean and much of the Archean on the Geologic time scale. Other scales [2] assign the Swazian to parts of the Paleoarchean and Mesoarchean, 3.5 to 2.8 billion years ago. The Swazian is not recognized by the International Commission on Stratigraphy nor by the Geological Society of America, the two most widely accepted developers of international geologic time scales.

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).

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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