Arctic rocks may contain oldest remnants of Earth

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Scientists have found Arctic rocks that may preserve the earliest remnants of Earth.

Over billions of years, much of the material that made up the early Earth was modified by processes such as melting and mixing.

But the Arctic rocks seem to contain chemical signatures that date from just after the Earth's violent origin.

If confirmed, the discovery challenges established theories about the formation of our planet.

The results of the study are published today in the leading journal, Nature.

The signatures found in Arctic lavas are more than 4.45 billion years old. By comparison, the Earth is 4.54 billion years old, only slightly older.

The oldest surviving remnants of our planet's turbulent beginnings were unearthed by Dr Matthew Jackson of Boston University, US, and his international team.

They collected the lava samples from Greenland and Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Although they erupted only 60 million years ago, the lavas contain a chemical signature of a far more ancient source.

They show that beneath the Arctic today are small pieces of mantle - the toffee-like layer below the crust - that have survived unchanged since shortly after the formation of the Earth....

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