The formation of stone pavements, a ubiquitous gravel armor mantling landforms in arid regions of the world, has been previously attributed to erosion by wind and water or alternating shrinking and swelling of soil horizons, implying that gravel is concentrated at the land surface in a time-transgressive manner. A newly proposed model for pavement evolution differs from these models in that pavement clasts are continuously maintained at the land surface in response to deposition and pedogenic modification of windblown dust. In-situ cosmogenic 3He surface-exposure ages on volcanic and alluvial landforms in the Mojave Desert of California are used to understand pavement evolution over geologic time scales and to test this new model. These exposure ages are stratigraphically consistent, show internal consistency at each site, and, for stone pavements adjacent to pristine, continuously exposed volcanic bedrock, are indistinguishable at the 1 sigma level. We conclude that stone pavements are born at the surface and that pavements may provide one of the longest-term records of geologic, hydrologic, and climatic processes operating on desert surfaces.

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