Early Earth - Formation and History

Course content

Geochemical evolution of Earth from 4.6 Ga to 2.5 Ga; geochemistry and mineralogy of Earth components

(core, mantle, crust), high temperature geochemical processes; short and long-lived isotopic tracers and their use for constraining the evolution and differentiation history of the early Earth via study of relevant  meteorites; origin and distribution of the elements; geochemical cycles in the crust and mantle. Delineation of potential mutual relationships between major impact events, initiation of dynamic crust-mantle interaction processes, and evolution of life during periods of early Earth.

Special focus will be on the origin and distribution of the elements in the solar system and Earth’s early reservoirs (core, mantle, crust), on the geochemical evolution and formation of major magmatic, plutonic and sedimentary rocks on Earth from 4.6 Ga to 2.5 Ga, and on the validity and power of combined applications of dating and isotopic tracers systems for constraining the evolution of early Earth’s reservoirs. Knowledge of the geochemistry of major classes of meteorites and their relationship to the origin and evolution of the Earth and the solar system will underscore the necessity of the study of extraterrestrial materials for constraining the early Earth’s formation.


MSc Programme in Geology-Geoscience

Learning outcome


  • Geochemical evolution of Earth during the Hadean and Archean,  from 4.6 Ga to 2.5 Ga
  • Geochemistry of early Earth’s major reservoirs (core, mantle, crust) and use of (isotope-) geochemical signatures for answering specific questions regarding the reconstruction and tracing of Earth’s early evolution
  • Important relevant short and long-lived isotopic tracers that contribute(d) to the temporal evolution of Earth and to the understanding of the formation and early differentiation of early Earth’s reservoirs
  • Geochemistry of major meteorite classes and their relationship to the origin and evolution of the Earth and solar system
  • Understanding, summarizing and presenting modern scientific research contributions that sign as benchmark studies for the formation and evolution of early Earth



  • Demonstration of an understanding of the processes that led to the Earth’s formation and its prime differentiation
  • Description of the general characteristics of the different geochemical reservoirs within the Earth, and the interplays between them
  • Knowledge of the chemical and mineralogical variations within the early Earth’s geochemical reservoirs in terms of geochemical processes that today operate in modern plate tectonic scenarios, lithospheric recycling and geodynamics.



  • Ability to recite the milestones in Earth’s early evolution and to understand the processes that led to the Earth’s formation and its prime differentiation and the chronology of these events
  • be familiar with the past processes that led to the structure of the Earth’s crust-mantle-core system
  • describe the general characteristics of the different geochemical reservoirs within the Earth, the interplays between them, and explain these within the framework of the evolution of the planet

The form of teaching is theory exercises combined with ad hoc lectures. Study and presentation of relevant and up-to-date scientific articles in small groups during confrontation time.

See Absalon for a list of course literature.

Beneficial to have gone through “High temperature isotope geochemistry and geochronology”, “Melting in the Earth’s mantle -tracing sources and processes” and “Mineral Resources” courses


Direct feedback during confrontation times

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, Two weeks
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Type of assessment details
The students randomly draw a written assignment two weeks before the hand-in deadline of the assignment. The oral exam uses the written assignment as its point of departure. It includes the titles listed in the officially approved reading list. A combined grade is given after the oral exam.
Without aids

All aids allowed when working on the written assignment.

No aids allowed at the oral examination. The students can bring a copy of handed in report.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.

The same as the ordinary exam.

Criteria for exam assessment

See Learning Outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 171
  • Exercises
  • 35
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 2
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board of Geosciences and Management
Contracting department
  • Department of Geoscience and Natural Resource Management
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Robert Frei   (7-7976696c797b6d47706e7535727c356b72)
Saved on the 28-02-2023

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students