The end-Cryogenian glaciation (Marinoan) is portrayed commonly as the archetype of snowball Earth, yet its duration and character remain uncertain. Here we report U-Pb zircon ages for two ash beds from widely separated localities of the Marinoan-equivalent Ghaub Formation in Namibia: 639.29 ± 0.26 Ma and 635.21 ± 0.59 Ma. These findings verify, for the first time, the key prediction of the snowball Earth hypothesis for the Marinoan glaciation, i.e., longevity, with a duration of ≥4 m.y. They also show that the nonglacial interlude of Cryogenian time spanned 20 m.y. or less and that glacigenic erosion and sedimentation, and at least intermittent open-water conditions, occurred 4 m.y. prior to termination of the Marinoan glaciation.

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