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Diamonds more than 4 billion years old -- nearly as old as the Earth itself -- have been discovered in Western Australia, giving scientists vital clues about the early history of our planet.
Found trapped in zircon crystals in the Jack Hills region, the small gems are the oldest identified fragments of the Earth's crust and their existence suggests the Earth may have cooled faster than previously thought, experts said on Wednesday.
Many geologists have traditionally thought of it as a time when the surface of the planet was a mass of molten lava. But the discovery of the ancient diamonds, reported in the journal Nature, challenges that view.
Martina Menneken of Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat Muenster, Germany, and colleagues said the presence of diamonds -- which are created under intense pressure -- implied there was a relatively thick continental crust as early as 4.25 billion years ago.