A review of continental growth models leaves open the possibilities that Earth during the Hadean Eon (∼4.5–4.0 Ga) was characterized by massive early crust or essentially none at all. Without support from the rock record, our understanding of pre-Archean continental crust must largely come from investigating Hadean detrital zircons. We know that these ancient zircons yield relatively low crystallization temperatures and some are enriched in heavy oxygen, contain inclusions similar to modern crustal processes, and show evidence of silicate differentiation at ∼4.5 Ga. These observations are interpreted to reflect an early terrestrial hydrosphere, early felsic crust in which granitoids were produced and later weathered under high water activity conditions, and even the possible existence of plate boundary interactions—in strong contrast to the traditional view of an uninhabitable, hellish world. Possible scenarios are explored with a view to reconciling this growing but fragmentary record with our knowledge of conditions then extant in the inner solar system.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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