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Tungsten isotope evidence from 3.8-Gyr metamorphosed sediments for early meteorite bombardment of the Earth


The ‘Late Heavy Bombardment’ was a phase in the impact history of the Moon that occurred 3.8–4.0 Gyr ago, when the lunar basins with known dates were formed1,2. But no record of this event has yet been reported from the few surviving rocks of this age on the Earth. Here we report tungsten isotope anomalies, based on the 182Hf–182W system (half-life of 9 Myr), in metamorphosed sedimentary rocks from the 3.7–3.8-Gyr-old Isua greenstone belt of West Greenland and closely related rocks from northern Labrador, Canada. As it is difficult to conceive of a mechanism by which tungsten isotope heterogeneities could have been preserved in the Earth's dynamic crust–mantle environment from a time when short-lived 182Hf was still present, we conclude that the metamorphosed sediments contain a component derived from meteorites.

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Figure 1: Values of ɛW for terrestrial rocks, meteorites and early Archaean samples relative to the composition of a tungsten standard, ACQUIRE-W.
Figure 2: Comparison of ɛW to Cr/Ti ratio.

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We thank T. Ewart for discussion and G.W. Lugmair for his review. S.M. collected the Greenland samples under the auspices of the Isua Multidisciplinary Project, and thanks P.W.U. Appel for logistic support. R.S. and B.S.K. thank P. Greenfield for financial support. Analytical costs were partly covered by a UQ New Staff start-up grant to R.S. Collection of the Northern Labrador samples by K.D.C. was financially supported by NSF.

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Correspondence to Ronny Schoenberg.

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Schoenberg, R., Kamber, B., Collerson, K. et al. Tungsten isotope evidence from 3.8-Gyr metamorphosed sediments for early meteorite bombardment of the Earth. Nature 418, 403–405 (2002).

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