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A Google Earth oblique view of the Santa Cruz and Urucum Plateaus

The Urucum (left) and Santa Cruz plateaus in Brazil could be the best-preserved stretches of rock on the planet’s surface. Credit: Google Earth


A 70-million-year-old landscape that looks frozen in time

Brazilian mountains haven’t eroded and could be the oldest surface land on Earth.

A Brazilian plateau could be the oldest landscape on Earth.

The Urucum region of southern Brazil lies in the tropics, where high rainfall usually causes rocks to weather away quickly. But a team led by Paulo Vasconcelos at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, has discovered that erosion there is at nearly a standstill.

The researchers found that iron-rich rocks atop two Urucum plateaus date to around 60 million to 70 million years ago. The scientists also analysed isotopes of helium, beryllium, aluminium and chlorine in the rock to pinpoint how long the surfaces had been exposed. The team found that the plateau rocks had remained exposed for nearly all of their history.

The key is that some of the iron-rich rocks had been cemented together to form a nearly impermeable surface, which persists until this day. If similar processes have affected other locations, ancient landscapes might be preserved elsewhere, waiting to be discovered.

More Research Highlights...

Selected materials found in the gut contents of Tollund Man

The intestinal contents of a man killed in a prehistoric ritual (clockwise from upper left): barley, charred food that had been encrusted in a clay pot, flax seeds and sand. Credit: Peter Steen Henriksen, the Danish National Museum


The guts of a ‘bog body’ reveal sacrificed man’s final meal

Tollund Man, who lived more than 2,000 years ago, ate well before he was hanged.
Illustration of Earth with white lines showing the magnetic field.

Earth’s magnetic field (depicted as white lines in this artist’s impression) can be studied with observations from a constellation of commercial satellites. Credit: Mikkel Juul Jensen/Science Photo Library


Telecoms satellites’ new purpose: spying on Earth’s magnetic field

Clues to the forces generated by the planet’s core emerge from observations intended for satellite navigation.
Ageing of an artwork with graphene

After 130 hours of artificial ageing by visible light, the painting Triton and Nereid has lost some of the purple tint to the figures’ right, but a graphene film kept the bright pink at upper left undimmed. Credit: M. Kotsidi et al./Nature Nanotechnol.

Materials science

A graphene cloak keeps artworks’ colours ageless

A layer of carbon atoms preserves a painting’s vibrant hues — and can be applied and removed without damage.
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