The source of the Great Dyke, Zimbabwe, and its tectonic significance: Evidence from Re-Os isotopes

R. Schoenberg, Th F. Nägler, E. Gnos, J. D. Kramers, B. S. Kamber

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Re-Os data for chromite separates from 10 massive chromitite seams sampled along the 550-km length of the 2.58-Ga Great Dyke layered igneous complex, Zimbabwe, record initial 187Os/188Os ratios in the relatively narrow range between 0.1106 and 0.1126. This range of initial 187Os/188Os values is only slightly higher than the value for the coeval primitive upper mantle (0.1107) as modeled from the Re-Os evolution of chondrites and data of modern mantle melts and mantle derived xenoliths. Analyses of Archean granitoid and gneiss samples from the Zimbabwe Craton show extremely low Os concentrations (3-9 ppt) with surprisingly unradiogenic present-day 187Os/188Os signatures between 0.167 and 0.297. Only one sample yields an elevated 187Os/188Os ratio of 1.008. Using these data, the range of crustal contamination of the Great Dyke magma would be minimally 0%-33% if the magma source was the primitive upper mantle, whereas the range estimated from Nd and Pb isotope systematics is 5%-25%. If it is assumed that the primary Great Dyke magma derived from an enriched deep mantle reservoir (via a plume), a better agreement can be obtained. A significant contribution from a long-lived subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) reservoir with subchondritic Re/Os to the Great Dyke melts cannot be reconciled with the Os isotope results at all. However, Os isotope data on pre-Great Dyke ultramafic complexes of the Zimbabwe Craton and thermal modeling show that such an SCLM existed below the Zimbabwe Craton at the time of the Great Dyke intrusion. It is therefore concluded that large melt volumes such as that giving rise to the Great Dyke were able to pass lithospheric mantle keels without significant contamination in the late Archean. Because the ultramafic-mafic melts forming the Great Dyke must have originated below the SCLM (which extends to at least a 200-km depth ), the absence of an SCLM signature precludes a subduction-related magma-generation process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-578
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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