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Kroener, A.; Nagel, T. J.; Hoffmann, J. E.; Liu, X.; Wong, J.; Hegner, E.; Xie, H.; Kasper, U.; Hofmann, A.; Liu, D. (2018): High-temperature metamorphism and crustal melting at ca. 3.2 Ga in the eastern Kaapvaal craton, southern Africa. In: Precambrian Research, Vol. 317: pp. 101-116
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The question of whether high-grade metamorphism and crustal melting in the early Archaean were associated with modern-style plate tectonics is a major issue in unravelling early Earth crustal evolution, and the eastern Kaapvaal craton has featured prominently in this debate. We discuss a major ca. 3.2 Ga tectono-magmatic-metamorphic event in the Ancient Gneiss Complex (AGC) of Swaziland, a multiply deformed medium- to high-grade terrane in the eastern Kaapvaal craton consisting of 3.66-3.20 Ga granitoid gneisses and infolded greenstone remnants, metasedimentary assemblages and mafic dykes. We report on a 3.2 Ga granulite-facies assemblage in a metagabbro of the AGC of central Swaziland and relate this to a major thermo-magmatic event that not only affected the AGC but also the neighbouring Barberton granitoid-greenstone terrane. Some previous models have related the 3.2 Ga event in the eastern Kaapvaal craton to subduction processes, but we see no evidence for long, narrow belts and metamorphic facies changes reflecting lithospheric suture zones, and there is no unidirectional asymmetry in the thermal structure across the entire region from Swaziland to the southern Barberton granite-greenstone terrane as is typical of Phanerozoic and Proterozoic belts. Instead, we consider an underplating event at ca. 3.2 Ga, giving rise to melting in the lower crust and mixing with mantle derived under- and intraplated mafic magma to generate the voluminous granitoid assemblages now observed in the AGC and the southern Barberton terrane. This is compatible with large-scale crustal reworking during a major thermo-magmatic event and the apparent lack of a mafic lower crust in the Kaapvaal craton as shown by seismic data.