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Ages in the range 3.6–4.0 Ga (billion years) have been reported for the oldest, continental, granitoid orthogneisses, whose magmatic precursors were probably formed by partial melting or differentiation from a mafic, mantle-derived source. The geological interpretation of some of the oldest ages in this range is still strongly disputed.

The oldest known supracrustal (i.e. volcanic and sedimentary) rocks, with an age of 3.7–3.8 Ga, occur in West Greenland. They were deposited in water, and several of the sediments contain 13C-depleted graphite microparticles, which have been claimed to be biogenic.

Ancient sediments (c. 3 Ga) in western...

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