Science: Dating the Dawn of Life

When did life begin on earth? Harvard Paleobotanist Elso S. Barghoorn and his onetime student, J. William Schopf, discovered a possible answer to that intriguing question several years ago, when they found microscopic fossils in ancient South African rocks. These tiny traces of life indicated that single-celled creatures existed as long as 3.1 billion years ago. Now a team headed by Schopf himself has found evidence that could push the dawn of life back at least another 200 million years.

The new evidence was uncovered in South Africa's Transvaal in an unusual formation of sedimentary rock. Once probably part of...

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