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The Archean Eon (IPA: // ar-KEE-ən, also spelled Archaean or Archæan), in older sources sometimes called the Archaeozoic, is the second of the four geologic eons of Earth's history, preceded by the Hadean Eon and followed by the Proterozoic. The Archean represents the time period from (millions of years ago). The Late Heavy Bombardment is hypothesized to overlap with the beginning of the Archean. The Huronian glaciation occurred at the end of the eon.
4031 ± 3 – 2500 Ma
|Alternate spelling(s)||Archaean, Archæan|
J.W. Dawson, 1865
|Regional usage||Global (ICS)|
|Time scale(s) used||ICS Time Scale|
|Time span formality||Formal|
|Lower boundary definition||Ten oldest U-Pb zircon ages|
|Lower boundary GSSA||Along the Acasta River, Northwest Territories, Canada|
|Lower GSSA ratified||2023|
|Upper boundary definition||Defined Chronometrically|
|Upper GSSA ratified||1991|
The Earth during the Archean was mostly a water world: there was continental crust, but much of it was under an ocean deeper than today's oceans. Except for some trace minerals, today's oldest continental crust dates back to the Archean. Much of the geological detail of the Archean has been destroyed by subsequent activity. The Earth's atmosphere was also vastly different in composition to today's: it was a reducing atmosphere rich in methane and lacking free oxygen.
The earliest known life, mostly represented by shallow-water microbial mats called stromatolites, started in the Archean and remained simple prokaryotes (archaea and eubacteria) throughout the eon. The earliest photosynthetic processes, especially those by early cyanobacteria, appeared in the mid/late Archean and led to a permanent chemical change in the ocean and the atmosphere after the Archean.
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