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By examining the existing elements, scientists can calculate the initial quantity of a radioactive element, and thus how long it took for the elements to decay, allowing them to determine the age of the rock.The oldest rocks on Earth found to date are the Acasta Gneiss in northwestern Canada near the Great Slave Lake, which are 4.03 billion years old.Samples in Western Australia run 3.4 billion to 3.6 billion years old.
Some of these samples have been dated to 4.5 billion years old, supporting other calculations of the date of early planetary formation.
But rocks older than 3.5 billion years can be found on all continents.
Greenland boasts the Isua supracrustal rocks (3.7 to 3.8 billion years old), while rocks in Swaziland are 3.4 billion to 3.5 billion years.
More than 70 meteorites that have fallen to Earth have had their ages calculated by radiometric dating.
The oldest of these are between 4.4 billion and 4.5 billion years old.Some of the earliest forms of life have been found in Western Australia, as announced in a 2018 study; the researchers found tiny filaments in 3.4-billion-year-old rocks that could be fossils.