A review of Palaeoarchaean felsic volcanism in the eastern Kaapvaal craton: Linking plutonic and volcanic records

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In the Kaapvaal craton of southern Africa, as well as other Archaean cratons worldwide, the progression from dominant tonalite–trondhjemite–granodiorite (TTG) to granite-monzogranite-syenogranite (GMS) rock types is interpreted to reflect progressive reworking and differentiation of the continental crust. Here we re-evaluate the early Archaean evolution of the Kaapvaal craton and propose a unified view of the plutonic and volcanic records based on elemental and isotopic (Nd, Hf) data and zircon U–Pb ages. We also report new whole-rock major and trace element analyses, zircon U–Pb ages and Hf-in-zircon analyses of igneous clasts from a conglomerate of the 3.2 Ga Moodies Group of the Barberton Greenstone Belt. Many of these clasts are derived from shallow intrusive rocks of granitic composition, which are scarcely represented in outcrop. Despite alteration, the volcanic rocks can be classified based on their trace element contents into two main groups by comparison with plutonic rocks. One group has characteristics resembling TTGs: relatively low and fractionated rare earth element concentrations with no Eu anomaly and relatively low concentrations of high field strength elements (Nb mostly ≤12 ppm). The second group has GMS-like characteristics: less fractionated REE, marked negative Eu anomalies and HFSE-increasing trends with progressing fractionation (Nb ≤ 50 ppm or more, Th up to 30–40 ppm). In addition, igneous clasts of Moodies Group conglomerate have chemical, mineralogical and isotopic characteristics that link them to GMS. New analyses of some of these clasts indicate elevated high field strength elements (Nb up to 20 ppm) and εHf(t) of zircon down to −3.5. These rocks imply the presence of an already differentiated felsic crust at >3.5 Ga, which has Nd and Hf model ages indicating mantle extraction ages extending back to the Eoarchaean. The combined record of plutonic and volcanic rocks of the Kaapvaal craton provides a more complex scenario than previously suggested and indicates that TTG and GMS-like felsic magmas were emplaced broadly coevally in multiple pulses between ∼3.5 Ga and 3.2 Ga.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-688
Number of pages22
JournalGeoscience Frontiers
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Archean
  • Barberton
  • Greenstone
  • Kaapvaal craton
  • TTG

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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