Most of the world’s oldest mountains are located in South Africa and the United States and in our top 8 list of the oldest mountains, only one out of the eight ancient mountains is from Australia. Mountains have always held a special place in the hearts of adventurers and nature enthusiasts. They are not only majestic in their beauty but also bear witness to the Earth’s ancient history. In this article, we will explore the eight oldest mountain ranges in the world, each with its own unique characteristics and fascinating stories to tell.
Nature has a way of captivating us with its grandeur, and among its many wonders, mountains stand tall as awe-inspiring formations. Mountains not only house diverse ecosystems teeming with wildlife, flora, and fauna, but they also serve as vital sources of fresh water from their majestic peaks to the valleys below. Beyond their ecological significance, mountains hold valuable clues about the age and geological history of a region. Geologists play a vital role in unraveling the mysteries of these ancient giants, helping us identify the nine oldest mountain ranges in the world.
Determining the age of a mountain range requires meticulous study by geologists. By analyzing the layers of sediment and rock formations, they compare their findings to the geologic time scale, which provides a framework for understanding Earth’s history. Through these investigations, we have discovered the incredible age of these mountain ranges, giving us insight into the deep-rooted antiquity of our planet.
1. Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains – 3.5 Billion Years (South Africa and the Kingdom of Eswatini)
Country and Origin: South Africa and Swaziland
Highest Peak: 5,900 feet
Average Elevation: 2,000-5,900 feet
Approximate Area: 120 by 60 km
The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, located in South Africa and the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), are believed to be the oldest mountain range on Earth, with rocks dating back over 3.5 billion years. These mountains are rich in geological history and have played a crucial role in understanding the early formation of the planet.
The Makhonjwa Mountains, the world’s oldest mountain range, are also known as the “Genesis of Life.” The mountains’ terrain ranges from rocky slopes to lush pastures and densely forested valleys.
The majority of the mountains are in South Africa, with the remainder extending into Swaziland. The mountains are located in the Barberton Greenstone Belt, which was called after the finding of gold in the region by George Barber and his relatives, which sparked a gold rush in the late nineteenth century.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that scientists became interested in the antiquity of the mountains themselves.
Morris and Richard Viljoen, two brothers, discovered signs of Archaean lava, which is unique to the Komati river basin. This finding also resulted in the greatest temperature ever recorded for volcanic rocks, 1650 degrees Celsius.
The Archaean sequences are extraordinarily well preserved and provide a view into ancient Earth’s marine and continental crust. The Makhonjwa Mountains include fossils of some of the oldest living forms, as well as evidence of the earliest reported meteorite strike.
2. Hamersley Range – 3.4 Billion Years (Australia)
Country and Origin: Western Australia, Pilbara Region
Highest Peak: Mount Meharry, 4,098 feet
Average Elevation: 450-550 m
Approximate Area: 160 miles
The Hamersley Range in Western Australia is another ancient mountain range, with rocks estimated to be around 2.5 billion years old. These majestic mountains are known for their iron ore deposits, which have been extensively mined over the years. The Hamersley Range also boasts stunning gorges, waterfalls, and unique flora and fauna.
The Hamersley Range boasts canyons with steep and colorful rock sides that exhibit a range of colors — green, blue, and pink — that move with the sunshine and contains twenty of Western Australia’s tallest peaks. Pools of clean water and beautiful greenery may be found at the foot of these gorges and across the highlands.
The Hamersley Range contains Karijini National Park, one of Australia’s largest national parks.
The Hamersley Range, in addition to providing a sanctuary for animals and attractive natural monuments, is also significant to the economy. The Hamersley Range produces about 100 million tonnes of iron ore per year, accounting for an estimated 90% of Australia’s iron ore exports.
3. Waterberg Mountains – 2.8 Billion Years (South Africa)
Country and Origin: South Africa, Limpopo Province
Highest Peak: Geelhoutkop, 6,000 feet
Average Elevation: 600 meters
Approximate Area: 14,500 sq km
Situated in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, the Waterberg Mountains have a geological age of approximately 2.8 billion years. This range is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, including deep valleys, towering cliffs, and diverse wildlife. The Waterberg Mountains offer opportunities for hiking, game viewing, and exploring ancient rock art sites.
South Africa is home to several ancient mountain ranges, the Waterberg Mountains being one of the oldest. Archeological evidence suggests that Waterberg may have been home to the first human ancestors three million years ago.
The Bushmen Lapalala cave paintings, which portray antelope and rhinoceros that the Bushmen would have hunted as game, were discovered in this location during the Stone Age.
4. Magaliesberg Mountains – – 2.3 Billion Years (South Africa)
Country and Origin: South Africa, Northwest Province
Highest Peak: Nooitgedacht, 1852 meters
Average Elevation: 300 meters
Approximate Area: 120 km
The Magaliesberg Mountains, located in South Africa’s North West Province, are approximately 2.3 billion years old. These ancient mountains are a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers, offering scenic hiking trails, rock climbing opportunities, and picturesque waterfalls. The Magaliesberg Mountains are also known for their rich biodiversity and cultural heritage.
This old mountain range is also the location of some of the earliest human populations. The Sterkfontein Caves are located in the Cradle of Humankind region, which surrounds the Magaliesberg. These caverns, located 25 kilometers south of the main range, have yielded the earliest remains of the hominid species.
The Magaliesberg and its surroundings are now designated as a World Heritage Site. The region is filled in lush vegetation and animals. Just be cautious if you go since the highlands are home to baboon armies and countless venomous snakes.
5. Guiana Highlands – 2.1 Billion Years (South America)
Country and Origin: Northeastern South America
Highest Peak: Pico de Neblina, 9,823 feet
Average Elevation: 2600-4900 feet
Approximate Area: 1200 miles long, 200-600 miles wide
Spanning across Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and Brazil, the Guiana Highlands are one of the oldest mountain ranges in South America. These ancient mountains have a geological age of around 2.1 billion years and are characterized by rugged landscapes, table-top mountains (tepuis), and vast rainforests. The Guiana Highlands are home to unique plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth.
The Guiana Highlands, distinguished by Tepui, or mountain plateaus, spread through Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, and a portion of Colombia. The region’s flora is mostly tropical rainforest, and the mountains themselves are a gold and diamond mine.
In addition to their projecting beauty and ancient antiquity of 2.1 billion years, the Guiana Highlands are home to the world’s tallest waterfalls, the Angel Falls.
6. Black Hills – 1.8 Billion Years (United States)
Country and Origin: USA, South Dakota and Wyoming
Highest Peak: Black Elk Peak, 7,242 feet
Average Elevation: 4,000-7,000 feet
Approximate Area: 5,000 square miles
Located in South Dakota, United States, the Black Hills are a region of low mountains with an estimated age of about 1.8 billion years. The Black Hills hold significant cultural and spiritual importance to Native American tribes, and the area is home to iconic landmarks like Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Visitors can explore scenic drives, hiking trails, and experience the rich history and culture of the region.
The Black Hills are North America’s oldest mountain range. The Black Hills, which are predominantly in western South Dakota but also extend into north-eastern Wyoming, were named from the dark colour of the pine trees, which made the mountain range look black from a distance.
Many Native American tribes lived in the Black Hills region, including the Cheyenne, Lakota, and Sioux. The discovery of gold in the area sparked a gold rush in the late 1800s. The renowned Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills’ Southern Hills.
7. St. Francois Mountains – 1.5 billion years (United States)
Country and Origin: USA, Missouri
Highest Peak:Taum Sauk Mountain, 1,772 feet
Average Elevation: 1,136 feet
Approximate Area: 7,028 acres
Situated in Missouri, United States, the St. Francois Mountains are a unique ancient range that dates back over 1.5 billion years. These mountains were formed by volcanic activity and are characterized by rugged peaks, clear mountain streams, and dense forests. The St. Francois Mountains provide a haven for outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, and exploring caves.
The St. Francois Mountains are located in southeastern Missouri, in the heart of the Lead Belt. The mountains, formed by volcanic activity, are rich in reserves of lead, silver, cobalt, and nickel, among other things.
Lead is the most plentiful mineral in the mountains, and the region accounts for around 90% of lead production in the United States.
8. Blue Ridge Mountains 1.2 Billion Years old (United States)
Stretching across multiple states in the eastern United States, the Blue Ridge Mountains have a geological age of approximately 1.2 billion years. These scenic mountains offer a tranquil escape with their rolling peaks, dense forests, and stunning vistas. The Blue Ridge Mountains are a popular destination for hiking, camping, and experiencing the vibrant fall foliage.
Pilanesberg is a single mountain, not a mountain range. The last eruption of this old and extinct volcano happened around 1,200 million years ago. Pilanesberg is not just one of the oldest mountain formations, but also one of the biggest volcanic constructions.
Pilanesberg’s volcanic makeup makes it a source of rare materials, and platinum mines are located at the base of the mountain’s crater creation.
Mount Pilanesberg is a popular mountain climbing and trekking site, as well as a protected area of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
World’s oldest mountains
As we explore the world’s oldest mountain ranges, we gain a deeper appreciation for the immense geological history and the enduring beauty they hold. These ancient landscapes have witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, shaped ecosystems, and continue to inspire awe and wonder in those who visit them.
|1||Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains||South Africa and the Kingdom of Eswatini|
|3||Waterberg Mountains||South Africa|
|4||Magaliesberg Mountains||South Africa|
|5||Guiana Highlands||South America|
|6||Black Hills||United States|
|7||St. Francois Mountains||United States|
|8||Blue Ridge Mountains||United States|