Jordan Geology Project: The 4.54 billion year view (OR: What we don’t know)

Sandstone in Petra, Jordan (February 2013)
Sandstone in Petra, Jordan (February 2013)

One of my favorite things about geology is how much we don’t know. For example, the earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old, but the oldest rock we have ever found is 4.28 billion years old. That’s 260,000,000 years we don’t know anything about. 260,000,000 is also longer than the amount of time it took for humans to evolve to our present state.

That quarter of a billion years we don’t have any information about pales in comparison to how little we know about the past of the vast majority of the rocks on planet earth. For example, the oldest rock yet found in Jordan is from the Precambrian period, which was 570,000,000 years ago, around 3 times the amount of time it took for humans to evolve.

This series of posts has gone over a lot of what we do know, and hopefully you have a stronger understanding of the geology of Jordan, and have feasted your eyes on some of the beautiful formations in the region. Because it’s not all about age–we do know the rough history of a lot of the geology of Jordan, that the interior desert used to be under the ocean, that the Jordan Rift Valley used to be below sea level until it raised up, though the Dead Sea is still the lowest dry point on earth, that there is igneous rock in the south and sandstone around Petra (as well as other places).

One of the few English-language resources on the geology of Jordan that is available online and to the general public (but not in print) is a 1975 technical paper put online by the U.S. Geological Survey by Friedrich Bender and includes detailed maps of Jordan from that time (and since geology is about rocks, it hasn’t changed too much since then). That can give a feel for the shape of the forces which shaped Jordan. The incursions of the seas, the great moment/eon when Africa smacked into the Arabian Peninsula and is now bouncing away again, the lava pushing to the surface in the south.

But the specifics are left to our imaginations.

What fun!

Inspirational Quote:

“I went into geology because I like being outdoors, and because everybody in geology seemed, well, they all seemed like free spirits or renegades or something. You know, climbing mountains and hiking deserts and stuff.”― Kathy B. Steele, Rocks That Float

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