The World's Most Ancient Rocks

Scroll Down to explore the list

Slave Craton, NT

Age: 4.0–3.6 billion years old

The Acasta Gneiss Complex, about 300 kilometres north of Yellowknife, is famous among geologists for being the oldest known rock formation on earth—the so-called Rock of Ages. Recently, a group of scientists from Australian universities determined that the formation was probably created when a meteorite landed on earth.

Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt, QC

Age: 3.9–2.8 billion years old

This strip of iron-rich rock is located in northern Quebec. Scientists say that, billions of years ago, the rock formation used to be located at the bottom of the ocean floor, right at the intersection of two tectonic plates, where magma and seawater combined to form a hot spring. Over time, the rocks were pushed upward to become part of North America.

Isua Greenstone Belt, W Greenland

Age: 3.8–3.7 billion years old

Located in western Greenland, this outcrop of rocks was hidden by layers of ice and snow for decades until a recent series of warm summers revealed it. The rocks were formed at a time when volcanic eruptions were common on earth, and the first bodies of water may have been forming. Several scientists have speculated—not without controversy—that fossils found within the greenstone belt provide evidence of the earliest known life on earth.

Akilia, SW Greenland

Age: 3.83–3.7 billion years old

This rock formation on Akilia Island is well known among geologists for its location on a body of land roughly 0.01 km2. The iron-rich quartz-pyroxene gneisses gained infamy in the mid-2000s, when researchers claimed they had found evidence of the earliest life on earth—but the results were not replicated by a later study. One of the lead authors of the original study later said, “I think there must have been a mix-up of samples.”

Saglek–Hebron Block, NL

Age: 3.9–3.0 billion years old

Located in coastal Labrador, the Saglek-Hebron block is closely related to the two sedimentary structures found in southwest Greenland, but it has received much less scientific attention. In 2006, scientific teams finally started running detailed studies of samples from the region.

Minnesota River Valley, USA

Age: 3.5–3.1 billion years old

The Morton gneiss in southwestern Minnesota is well known for the beauty of its rock formations. Today, samples of the gneiss are sold as ornamental stone.

Northwestern Superior Craton Margin, MB

Age: 3.9–3.0 billion years old

This segment of rock is located in northwestern Manitoba. It is part of the Superior Craton, a section of the Earth's crust that hasn't tectonically moved for a long while.

Wyoming Craton, USA

Age: 3.4–3.1 billion years old

Located in northwestern Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, this craton is one of the oldest in the United States. It covers an area of 500,000 km2 and some of its oldest rocks—granite that dates back as far as 3.4 billion years—have been found in and around the Wind River Range.

Anshan area, North China Craton, China

Age: 3.8–3.3 billion years old

Covering 300,000 km2, the North China Craton is both the largest and the most historically significant of China’s three major rock formations: it contains a complete record of earth’s evolution (including igneous rock, which was formed through the cooling of lava; sedimentary rock, which forms on the ocean floor; and metamorphic rock, which forms through pressure, the heat from magma, or tectonic forces). The North China Craton extends into Mongolia and North Korea, and the Anshan area is the northeastern part of the craton.

Back to Top


Central Slave Craton

Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt, QC

Isua greenstone belt, W Greenland


Akilia Island, SW Greenland

Saglek–Hebron block, NL

Minnesota River valley, USA

Northwestern Superior craton margin, MB:

Wyoming craton, USA

Anshan area, north China craton, China:

Back to Top