Greenstone Belts occur as belts of deformed volcanic and sedimentary strata and get their name from the presence of green minerals (Actinolite,
amphiboles,Chromium muscovite "fuchsite", epidote, green chlorite and serpentine)
These ancient rocks are among the oldest in the World.
The Barberton Greenstone belt is one of the oldest and best exposed Archaean greenstone belts on Earth
and is almost 3.5 billion years old.
The small and beautiful "Makhonjwa Mountain Range"close to Barberton, where gold and asbestos
deposits occur, stretches from Jeppe’s Reef to Oshoek and from
Shiyalongubo Dam to Queen’s river.It is
known world wide in geological circles as a treasure house of other significant geological phenomenae.
This range is also referred to as the ‘Genesis of Life’,because it's geology includes the best preserved
ancient Achaean rocks on earth.
These ancient rocks are 3.5 billion years old and they are so well preserved that their fossils accurately record the earliest life forms on the planet, as well as evidence of the first massive meteorite impact on record, possibly related to the formation of our moon.
If you were able to travel back in time to visit Earth during the Archaean period you would not recognize it as the same planet we inhabit today.
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The atmosphere was very different from today it most probably consisted of methane, ammonia, and other gases which would be toxic to most life on earth today.
It was during this time, that the Earth's crust cooled enough in order for rocks and continental plates to begin forming.
The first forms of life appeared on Earth during the early Archaean period.
The periods can roughly be divided as follows:-
Early Archaean 3.9 - 3.3. billion years ago; Mid Archaean 3.3 - 2.9 billion years ago; Late Archaean 2.9 - 2.5 billion years ago.
The oldest known fossils date back to about 3.5 billion years ago, and consist of bacteria microfossils. All life during the Archaean period was bacterial.
Stromatolites, were colonies of photosynthetic bacteria which today have been found as fossils in the early Archaean rocks of Barberton.
Stromatolites were common during the late Archaean age.
Gold was discovered here over 120 years ago, (CLICK HERE) and these gold deposits are the oldest recognized gold ores on Earth.
It was the site of one of the milestones of the industrial development of South Africa. Some of these mines are still producing gold which makes them the oldest gold mines in the world.
For years Barberton has attracted teams of international scientists who return annually to research and interpret the story of the earth's beginnings and the evolution of life.
This is because it is only in the beautifully preserved rocks of the Makhonjwas that they are able to find the clues that science needs to learn about the earth's earliest history and the way life began.
Biologically, this area is home to an incredible variety of endemic native plants and animals occurring only within this particular area in South Africa.
They contain very important high-rainfall mountain catchments which are protected in terms of several proclaimed Nature Reserves.
The historic and cultural history of the region is of great importance to the Swazi Nation as well as that of the early colonial era.
Its beauty and accessibility makes it a natural destination for tourism where visitors from southern Africa and overseas can enjoy an inspirational and educational experience.
The earliest records of how the earth’s crust was formed, has been provided by Scientific research from the Barberton Mountainlands. Scientists are researching a possible re-dating
of when life on earth first occurred.
This could possibly be one billion years earlier than estimated.
Tidal traces billions of years old are so precisely recorded they allow for calculation of changes in the distance between the earth and the moon.
The Barberton Mountainlands is the only place on earth where the development of the early earth crust and evolution of life itself can be studied.
This can be safely said to be the place where life on Earth began more than 3.5 billion years ago.
Achaean serpentinites in the Komati river valley, South Africa, have distinctive crystal textures and volcanic features which distinguish them from normal coarse-grained serpentinites.
They are interpreted to represent lava which erupted from the depths of a deep subterranean environment.