Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 112, Supplement 1, pp 23–41 | Cite as

The birth, growth and ageing of the Kaapvaal subcratonic mantle

  • Gerhard P. BreyEmail author
  • Qiao Shu
Original Paper


The Kaapvaal craton and its underlying mantle is probably one of the best studied Archean entity in the world. Despite that, discussion is still vivid on important aspects. A major debate over the last few decades is the depth of melting that generated the mantle nuclei of cratons. Our new evaluation of melting parameters in peridotite residues shows that the Cr2O3/Al2O3 ratio is the most useful pressure sensitive melting barometer. It irrevocably constrains the pressure of melting (melt separation) to less than 2 GPa with olivine (ol), orthopyroxene (opx) and spinel (sp) as residual phases. Garnet (grt) grows at increasing pressure during lithosphere thickening and subduction via the reaction opx + sp → grt + ol. The time of partial melting is constrained by Re-depletion model ages (TRD) mainly to the Archean (Pearson and Wittig 2008). However, only 3% of the ages are older than 3.1 Ga while crustal ages lie mainly between 3.1 to 2.8 Ga for the W- and 3.7 to 2.8 Ga for the E-block. Many TRD-ages are probably falsified by metasomatism and the main partial melting period was older than 3.1 Ga. Also, Nd- and Hf- model ages of peridotitic lithologies from the W-block are 3.2 to 3.6 Ga old. The corresponding very negative εNd (−40) and εHf values (−65) signal the presence of subducted crustal components in these old mantle portions. Subducted components diversify the mantle in its chemistry and thermal structure. Adjustment towards a stable configuration occurs by fluid transfer, metasomatism, partial melting and heat transfer. Ages of metasomatism from the Lu-Hf isotope system are 3.2 Ga (Lace), 2.9 Ga (Roberts Victor) and 2.62 Ga (Finsch) coinciding with the collision of cratonic blocks, the growth of diamonds, metamorphism of eclogites and of Ventersdoorp magmatism. The cratonic lithosphere was stabilized thermally by the end of the Archean and cooled since then with a rate of 0.07 °C/Ma.


Subcratonic mantle Metasomatism Archean subduction Cooling of the mantle Cr/Al ratio as melting barometer 



We would like to thank Vadim Bulatov, Axel Gerdes, Andrei Girnis, Jeff Harris, Jan Heliosch, Heidi Höfer, Franz Kneissl, Linda Marco, Anna Neumann, Graham Pearson, Jock Robey, Janina Schastok, Hans-Michael Seitz, Thomas Stachel, Stefan Weyer and Armin Zeh for their continuous help in the field and laboratory and fruitful discussions over the years. We thank an anonymous reviewer and Graham Pearson for very many helpful and positive suggestions. The research was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council and the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program.

Supplementary material

710_2018_577_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (252 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 251 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Geowissenschaften, MineralogieGoethe Universität FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Ore Deposit Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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