The ancient crystals hold clues as to why the Earth’s crust shattered like crème brûlée 3.8 billion years ago.

Tiny crystals unearthed in South Africa contain evidence of a sudden transition in the planet’s surface 3.8 billion years ago.

These crystals, each no larger than a grain of sand, show that at that time, land‘s crust broke apart and began to move, a precursor to the process known as plate tectonics.