Fluid inclusion analysis of silicified Palaeoarchaean oceanic crust - A record of Archaean seawater?

Katja Farber, Annika Dziggel, F. Michael Meyer, Walter Prochaska, Axel Hofmann, Chris Harris

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16 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, the role of Archaean seawater and hydrothermal fluid in the extensive silicification of Palaeoarchaean volcano-sedimentary successions has been a matter of considerable debate. In an attempt to constrain the conditions of silica precipitation, and the sources and chemical composition of the interacting fluids, we used fluid inclusion microthermometry, bulk crush-leach and oxygen isotope analyses of chert and quartz veins in silicified komatiites and sediments from the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa. Chert vein margins consist of microcrystalline quartz and carbonaceous matter, whereas the vein centres are often filled with macrocrystalline quartz that contains abundant fluid inclusions.Oxygen isotope ratios of vein chert and macrocrystalline quartz vary from 18 to 21‰, with the macrocrystalline quartz having slightly higher δ18O values (0.7±0.3‰). The data are consistent with silica precipitation during low-temperature (≤100°C) hydrothermal processes on the Archaean seafloor. Macrocrystalline quartz contains homogeneous 2-phase (L+V) inclusions at room temperature with a relatively constant vapour fraction. The inclusions have a salinity of 3-11wt.% NaCl equiv. and homogenisation temperatures (Th) of 150-200°C. Whereas some of the inclusions form intragranular fluid inclusion clusters that appear to be primary, other inclusions form transgranular fluid inclusion trails and are clearly secondary. Both types of inclusions share the same microthermometric characteristics, indicating that fluid entrapment occurred during a later metamorphic event and not near the seafloor. The event likely coincided with regional deformation and metamorphism at 3.23Ga. Chlorite thermometry from vein host rocks reveals peak conditions of ~257±31°C. In conjunction with microthermometry, the data correspond to a crustal depth of 3-6km. A secondary origin of fluid inclusions is also consistent with the Cl/Br, Na/Cl and Na/K ratios of the macrocrystalline veins, which are similar to those found in metamorphic quartz veins. The fluid inclusions thus do not provide information on the conditions and temperatures during chert formation. While the fluids potentially carry the geochemical signature of modified Archaean seawater (i.e. hydrothermal fluid), characterised by low Cl/Br and Na/K ratios, and low Mg-contents, the fluid composition was likely modified during regional metamorphism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-164
Number of pages15
JournalPrecambrian Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


  • Archaean seafloor hydrothermal alteration
  • Archaean seawater
  • Chert veins
  • Crush-leach analysis
  • Microthermometry
  • Oxygen isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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