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MONTREAL, Dec. 3 — A team of Canadian geologists said Tuesday that they had found rocks dating back nearly 4 billion years, which could help scientists better understand Earth’s early development and the very beginnings of life.

THE SCIENTISTS said the volcanic and sedimentary rocks were 3.825 billion years old and came from the Inukjuak area in the northern reaches of the province of Quebec, on Hudson Bay.

The geologists from the University of Quebec in Montreal, working in association with Quebec’s Natural Resources Department and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, said the discovery would help give scientists a clearer picture of the planet’s first billion years of evolution.

Earth is 4.6 billion years, according to current estimates, which are based on the decay of radioactive elements within rocks.

The scientists said the story of the planet’s first billion years was still largely unknown, with little information available on a period that saw the formation of the moon and the first traces of life, such as bacteria in the ocean.

“This is a capital period of our evolution that however remains a great mystery, since geological traces that are preserved are not much available before 3.6 billion years,” the University of Quebec said in a statement.

The oldest volcanic rocks found to date came from Isua in Greenland, and date back 3.80 billion years.
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