Generation of early Archaean grey gneisses through melting of older crust in the eastern Kaapvaal craton, southern Africa

Alfred Kröner, J. Elis Hoffmann, Hangqiang Xie, Carsten Münker, Ernst Hegner, Yusheng Wan, Axel Hofmann, Dunyi Liu, Jinhui Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


We report zircon ages, Hf-in-zircon isotopes as well as whole-rock geochemistry and Hf-Nd isotopic systematics for Palaeoarchaean grey gneisses of the Ancient Gneiss Complex of Swaziland, the oldest components of the Kaapvaal craton, southern Africa. The Hf-in-zircon isotopic compositions in these compositionally heterogeneous, multicomponent, migmatitic gneisses are highly variable, even in the oldest zircons dating back to 3.66. Ga, suggesting growth of zircon from melts representing a mix of juvenile and anatectic material derived from differentiated continental crust of Eoarchean to late Hadean age. In contrast, the initial Nd and Hf whole-rock isotopic compositions are frequently not in agreement with the Hf-in-zircon data that mostly show approximately chondritic initial values for Nd and strongly radiogenic initial values for Hf. We consider it likely that both the Lu-Hf and Sm-Nd whole-rock isotopic systems were disturbed and partly reset during later episodes of partial melting and crustal reworking, most likely during a pervasive 3.2. Ga tectono-metamorphic event.Primitive mantle-normalized trace element patterns show the variable influence of residual plagioclase and garnet in the sources as well as high contents of strongly incompatible elements. In conjunction with the Hf-in-zircon isotopic data the trace element contents are best explained by the incorporation of older continental crustal material into the sources of the grey gneisses. Our data support evidence from other Palaeoarchean terranes that crustal recycling, as seen in even the oldest crustal components, played an important role in early continental evolution. Rocks previously classified as a subduction-related tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite suite are complex, and their chemistry alone cannot be used to reconstruct tectonic settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-846
Number of pages24
JournalPrecambrian Research
Issue numberP3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Grey gneiss
  • Hf-Nd isotopes
  • Kaapvaal craton
  • Palaeoarchaean
  • Swaziland
  • Zircon age

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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