The Barberton-Makhonjwa Mountains, in Mpumalanga,
were officially declared as South Africa’s 10th World Heritage
Site by the United Nations Educational‚ Scientifi c and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in July.
Long recognised by geologists as having world heritage potential,
the Barberton-Makhonjwa Mountainlands was placed on South Africa’s World Heritage Tentative List by Unesco in June 2008.
The site comprises 40 percent of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, one of the world’s oldest geological structures,
and represents the bestpreserved succession of volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years,
when the first continents were starting to form on primitive Earth.
It features meteor-impact fallback breccias resulting from the impact of meteorites formed just after
the Great Bombardment, about 4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago.
The mountainlands are also believed to contain the oldest signs of life‚
with a microfossil of bacteria discovered there that is estimated to be 3.1 billion years old.
“As the government of the Republic of South Africa‚ we would like to make a commitment that we will do all in our power to protect the integrity
and the authenticity of this natural property‚” said Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa in a media statement.
Barberton-Makhonjwa Geotrail The Barberton-Makhonjwa Geotrail was developed to preserve Barberton’s geological heritage,
by building awareness and interest among local stakeholders, as well as local and international tourists.
According to information on the geotrail’s website, Earth in the Archaean − a geologiceon between Hadean and Proterozoic − would have seemed like an ocean-covered alien planet,
with a dim sun hung in the sky and a toxic atmosphere almost without oxygen.
There was no vegetation, volcanic eruptions fi lled the sky with ash and a hail of volcanic debris fell for kilometres around the many volca noes.
Torrential downpours, lasting millions of years, lashed the surface.
The moon hung much larger in the night sky. It was closer, tides were higher and more frequent and the days were shorter.
The Archaean spanned some 1.5 billion years, 2.5 to 3.8 billion years ago.
At its end, the Earth had been transformed from a wholly oceanic planet to one with plate tectonic activity, ocean basins filled with sediment,
volcanic island arcs and continental collisions and rifts tearing the newly–formed crust apart.
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