Much to their astonishment, Knauth and his graduate student at the time, Mark Beeunas, discovered that a 1.2-billion-year-old desert karst in central Arizona called the Mescal Limestone showed geochemical signs of life during the Precambrian eon “It was surprising because, according to all of the textbooks, the Precambrian lands were totally barren,”
Needing more evidence to buttress his paradigm-challenging claim, Knauth went in search of signs of life in Death Valley, sampling an unusual ridge of black quartz on top of the Beck Spring Dolomite. Back in the lab, geochemical analysis revealed low levels of carbon 13; photosynthesizing organisms had lived there, lots of them, he concluded. And where there are geochemical signs of life, there could also be microfossils.
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