Evidence for the existence of continental crust older than 4.06 Ga has so far been obtained only from zircons in the Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia. In this paper we report the first occurrence of a very old zircon with a U-Pb age of 4.2 Ga in the Acasta Gneiss Complex of northwestern Canada, based on a laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry and sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe study. The U-Pb data reveal that the 4.2 Ga zircon occurs as a xenocryst in a 3.9 Ga granitic rock. Trace element compositions of the xenocryst suggest that it crystallized from a granitic magma. Our results, suggesting the existence of granitic rocks outside the Yilgarn Craton at 4.2 Ga, imply that granitic continental crust was more widespread than previously thought, and that it was reworked into Early Archean continental crust.

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