Secrets about the origins of Mars have been discovered through an ancient meteorite unearthed by Bedouin tribesmen in the Sahara desert.
Scientists at Florida State University believe the meteorite is the first recognised example of ancient Martian crust.
Munir Humayun, a professor at the university and researcher at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, said the meteorite is 4.4 billion years old and holds a plethora of information about the origin of Mars.
Published in the journal Nature, the rock, named NWA 7533, is the first meteoric sample to come from the cratered area of Mars' southern highlands.
Researchers established its origin by analysing the meteorite's chemicals using sophisticated mass spectrometers. They found high concentrations of trace metals such as iridium, which suggests its location.
"This cratered terrain has been long thought to hold the keys to Mars' birth and early childhood," Humayun said.
Analysis of soil contained in the meteorite allowed researchers to calculate the thickness of Mars' crust, with their findings falling in line with estimates made by independent spacecraft measurements.
Their findings also showed that Mars did not experience a huge impact that melted the plant in its infanthood - in 2008, researchers from the University of California said a huge meteor hit Mars in its early history and destroyed any chance of life on the planet.
Scientists said this massive impact melted half the planet around four billion years ago
Commenting on meteorite's age, Humayum said: "This date is about 100 million years after the first dust condensed in the solar system.
"We now know that Mars had a crust within the first 100 million years of the start of planet building, and that Mars' crust formed concurrently with the oldest crusts on Earth and the Moon."
He said these findings are just the start of what secrets the meteorite will give up, with further study expected to reveal more details of the history of Mars and the nature of the earliest sediments to form on the planet.