That's certainly remarkable because, as the release explains,
The age of the Earth itself is around 4.5 billion years. If life complex enough to have the ability to fractionate carbon were to exist at 3.8 billion years, this would suggest life originated even earlier. The Hadean eon, 3.8 – 4.5 billion years ago, is thought to have been an environment extremely hostile to life. In addition to surviving this period, such early life would have had to contend with the ‘Late Heavy Bombardment’ between 3.8 and 4.1 billion years ago, when a large number of impact craters on the Moon suggest that both the Earth and the Moon underwent significant bombardment, probably by collision with asteroids.
... argued that a five metre wide outcrop of rock on the island contained graphite with depleted levels of 13C. Carbon isotopes are frequently used to search for evidence of early life, because the lightest form of carbon, 12C (atomic weight 12), is preferred in biological processes as it requires less energy to be used by organisms. This results in heavier forms, such as 13C, being less concentrated, which might account for the depleted levels found in the rocks at Akilia.
They may have jumped swiftly to conclusions.
and found no evidence that they are any older than c. 3.67 billion years.
"The rocks of Akilia provide no evidence that life existed at or before c. 3.82 Ga, or indeed before 3.67 Ga," they conclude.
(Note: The photo is a view of Akilia's rocks from SpaceDaily.)
1. M J Whitehouse, J S Myers & C M Fedo. The Akilia Controversy: field, structural and geochronological evidence questions interpretations of >3.8 Ga life in SW Greenland. Journal of the Geological Society, 2009; 166 (2): 335-348 DOI: 10.1144/0016-76492008-070
Adapted from materials provided by Geological Society of London, via AlphaGalileo.
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