1.37 billion

December 2, 2010 | Number of The Day

Rocks in a narrow belt of the NJ Highlands stretching from Wanaque to Ringwood have been dated at 1.37 billion years old, making them the oldest rocks in New Jersey. It also makes them 350 million years older than any other geologic feature in the Garden State, which is quite a difference, considering that dinosaurs roamed the earth 65 million years ago and it’s been 200 million years since continental drift and plate tectonics opened up the Atlantic Ocean.

The dating of the rocks was conducted through a project teaming the New Jersey Geological Survey, within the state Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Australian National University. It was funded through private grants.

According to Rich Volkert, the geologist responsible for the project, the rocks form the roots of the ancestral Appalachian Mountains, which were created when the land that is now part of South America was adjacent to New Jersey. The Appalachians were once as high as the Rockies.

State Geologist Karl Muessig called the study a “geologist’s dream come true.” It contributes insights into the formation of local geology but also has practical applications for environmental risk assessments.