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ELSEVIER Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

Archean magmatism and deformation were not products


of plate tectonics
Warren B. Hamilton *
Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, C080401, USA
Received 4 October 1996; accepted 30 June 1997

Abstract

The granite-and-greenstone terrains that dominate upper crust formed from about 3.6 to about 2.6 Ga, and record
magmatic and tectonic processes very different from those of a younger time. They indicate heat loss by the Archean
Earth primarily by voluminous magmatism from a mantle much hotter than that of the present. Plate-tectonic
processes were not then operating. The distinctive array of petrologic, structural and stratigraphic features that
characterize Phanerozoic convergent-plate systems--ophiolites, magmatic arcs, accretionary wedges, fore-arc basins,
etc.--have no viable analogues in Archean terrains. Purported Archean plate-tectonic indicators consist merely of
rock types that even superficially resemble actual Phanerozoic indicators only when considered in isolation from their
association and structure. Archean ultramafic and mafic volcanic rocks neither resemble ophiolitic rocks in petrology
nor occur in ophiolite-type successions, they often depositionally overlie felsic basement rocks and often overlie and
are intercalated with sedimentary and felsic-volcanic rocks, and they require a mantle about 200C hotter than now.
Archean graywackes are coherent strata derived from nearby volcanic rocks late in the histories of their regions, and
they lack the setting and disruption that characterize modern accretionary wedges.
The lithologic, structural and stratigraphic assemblages that typify Proterozoic and Phanerozoic rifted and
reassembled margins also lack Archean analogues, and no evidence has been found for Archean rifting, rotation, and
reassembly of continental plates.
Conversely, characteristic Archean assemblages lack modern equivalents in any tectonic setting. Ultramafic lavas,
erupted at liquidus temperatures, are voluminous. Granite-and-greenstone terrains have no modern analogues.
Greenstone belts are typically anastomosing networks of upright synforms formed by crowding aside by, and sinking
between, large rising diapiric, elliptical composite batholiths. The batholiths include both the products of new crustal
melts and variably remobilized mid-crustal gneisses. The greenstone belts are defined by late deformation of regionally
semiconcordant volcanic and sedimentary successions, and are not relics of successively formed volcanic chains. Little
deformation generally preceded the diapirism, and metamorphism was primarily of contact type. The regionally
uniform areal density and accordant crustal level of the diapiric batholiths, their contacts primarily against the oldest
strata of the synforms, their general age 10-20 million years younger than most of the flanking stratiform rocks, and
considerations of high Archean radiogenic heat productivity all fit the explanation that the batholiths were mobilized
by partial melting of hydrous lower crust by radiogenic heating. Diapirism was accompanied by modest regional
orthogonal shortening and extension of the hot upper crust, producing the orientations of the batholiths. Rise of the
batholiths greatly increased the petrologic fractionation of the crust and the concentration of radionuclides high in it,
resulting in cooling of the deeper crust and subjacent mantle, and thus cratonization. The upper crust, containing the
granite-and-greenstone aggregates, was decoupled from the gneissic middle crust, which underwent flattening and

* E-mail: whamilto@mines.edu

0301-9268/98/$19.00 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


PII SO301-9268 (98) 00042-4
144 l~B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143 179

extension subparallel to the elongation of the shallow batholiths. This deep deformation may have been driven by
flow of dense restites toward delamination loci from which they sank into the mantle.
The early Earth was probably wholly molten. The surface of the Earth, like that of the Moon, must have been
wholly recycled by impacts before 3.9 Ga and heavily modified by them until 3.8 Ga. Zircons as old as 4.2 Ga have
been found as clastic grains in much younger Archean quartzites, and polycyclic migmatites, last partly melted and
reconstituted under hydrous conditions only after 3.6 Ga, contain relict zircons as old as 4.0 Ga. The lithologies of
the early Earth protoliths in which these zircons formed have not been established, but impact melts and breccias
must be represented, and magma-ocean fractionates may be. The nature of the transitition in tectonic style into the
granite-and-greenstone mode is unknown.
Plate tectonic rifting and convergence were operating by about 2.0 Ga and were in an essentially modern mode by
about 0.8 Ga. The nature of the transition from the granite-and-greenstone mode at about 2.6 Ga to plate mode by
about 2.0 Ga has yet to be defined. The change may have been facilitated by the increasing content of water and
carbon dioxide in the mantle as dense, but hydrated, delaminated Archean crust sank into it. 1998 Elsevier
Science B.V.

Keywords: Greenstone Belts; Granite-and-greenstone terrains; Archean tectonics; Tonalite; Batholiths

1. Introduction blages in similar relationships in ancient terrains,


we infer similar tectonic settings of formation. For
The granite-and-greenstone terrains that typify example, where ancient complexes with character-
Archean cratons represent a distinct type of mag- istics similar to those of modern accretionary
matic and tectonic development within the span wedges can be paired spatially with coeval mag-
of 3.6-2.6 Ga. They have no modern analogues, matic complexes that are similar to modern mag-
and they were not products of plate tectonics. matic arcs, we infer that the ancient assemblages
Concepts of plate tectonics and analogy with also formed in convergent-plate settings, and that
currently active tectonic systems have permitted the polarity of subduction can be defined.
much comprehension of Phanerozoic tectonic and None of these diagnostic features has been found
magmatic evolution of continental crust. In active in Archean terrains.
convergent-plate margins, we see systematic rela- This essay emphasizes the geologic evidence
tionships between distinctive accretionary wedges, against plate interactions in Archean terrains, and
forearc assemblages, magmatic arcs, and backarc for Archean processes quite different from modern
complexes. Where continents have been sundered, ones, and continues the theme of Hamilton (1993).
we see rifts both along and across the grain of My career experience has been mostly in
pre-rift terrains, and we see continental-margin Phanerozoic plate tectonics and crustal evolution,
wedges of shelf, slope and abyssal strata developed and I have worked extensively with convergent-
along those rifts. In modern collisional complexes, plate tectonics in active island-arc and collisional
we find such wedges shoved back onto their flank- settings, and also in variably eroded older
ing cratons in thrust belts, and complex inter- Phanerozoic settings. The view that plate tectonics
actions between the opposed tectonic systems. dominated the Archean is widely held by Archean
Often we can see the development of new subduc- specialists, and when I began to look seriously at
tion systems initiated outboard of the collided Arehean assemblages, about 1990, I assumed that
aggregates. Analysis of deep crustal and upper- indeed I would find evidence for plate interactions.
most-mantle sections by direct field study where I did not find it. A m o n g others who have empha-
ramped up and eroded, by study of xenoliths, and sized recently that Archean assemblages do not fit
by geophysical surveys permits interpretation of plate-tectonic models are Bickle et al. (1995),
how the tectonic and lithologic assemblages, and Davies (1992), Goodwin (1996), H a m m o n d and
by inference the processes that formed them, vary Nisbet (1992), Padgham (1992, 1995), and R a p p
with crustal depth. Where we find similar assem- et al. (1991).
W.B. Hamilton / PrecambrianResearch 91 (1998) 143-179 145

The radiometric age determinations noted in stratigraphic, spatial, structural and temporal rela-
this essay are primarily based on single-crystal or tionships have been identified between Archean
ion-probe U - P b analyses of zircon, for the zircon tectonic and magmatic assemblages which would
U - P b system appears to give a generally much support analogy with m o d e m convergent-margin
better high-temperature 'memory' than any other. systems, so felsic volcanic and granitic rocks are
To facilitate reading, I do not generally mention assumed to represent magmatic arcs. Archean tur-
the error bars given with calculated ages, for these bidites are widely assumed to be accretionary
are commonly small with this methodology, and wedges even though no appropriate deformation
in any case are estimates of likely analytical has been recognized within them. Many papers
precision, not o f true age uncertainty. I do not basing complex tectonic rationales on such vague
generally mention such dubious 'age' determin- lithologic analogies are cited in this essay.
ations as those based on whole-rock R b - S r pseu- Not only do Archean assemblages display none
dochrons, nor determinations by other methods of the relationships which characterize plate-
which at best can define cooling through relatively tectonic rifting and accretion in Proterozoic and
low temperatures. Phanerozoic domains, but assemblages widespread
Here I use the term Archean to begin with the in the Archean lack counterparts in younger
time of formation of the oldest preserved coherent terrains. Granite-and-greenstone terrains typify
rock assemblages, which I take to be about 3.6 G a Archean upper crust and have no post-Archean
(although others infer coherent assemblages, such structural and magmatic analogues. Komatiites
as the ambiguously dated Isua supracrustals of and related intrusive and extrusive ultramafic rocks
southwest Greenland, to be as old as 3.8 Ga). I are voluminous in the Archean, are present locally
refer to the pre-Archean Earth of this distinction in the very early Proterozoic, and have essentially
simply as 'the early Earth.' Zircons o f early Earth no Phanerozoic analogues.
ages, back to 4.2 Ga, occur as clastic grains recy- Tectonics and magmatism are responses to loss
cled by sedimentation into younger Archean sedi- of heat by the Earth. The m o d e m Earth loses heat
ments (Maas et al., 1992), or as grains in polycyclic primarily through the thermal windows created by
migmatites that were remobilized and reconstituted seafloor spreading, and m o d e m lithosphere plates
repeatedly until 3.6 G a or later (Sections 2 and move primarily in response to the sinking of dense
3.1.12). slabs. Archean crust and mantle were much hotter
than m o d e m ones, and there is no a priori reason
1.1. Uniformitarianism and the Archean record that density-driven subduction should have been
an important Archean process.
The uniformitarian view that plate-tectonic pro-
cesses must have dominated the Archean Earth 1.2. Consensus
because they dominate the m o d e m one has been
stated explicitly by Windley (1993), among others, 'Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice: That alone
should encourage the crew. Just the place for a Snark! I have
and drives much of the recent literature on the said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.'
Archean. No evidence for Archean rifting has been
recognized in the sundering o f cratons or in the Lewis Carroll, The Hunting o f the Snark, 1876
development of continent-margin stratal wedges, Despite the lack of evidence for plate-tectonic
so rifting is presumed from the presence of mafic processes in Archean assemblages, a general, but
rocks which are thought of as continental-rift not unanimous, pro-plate consensus among
rocks or as oceanic ophiolites, ocean-floor basalts, Archean specialists is shown by the published
and oceanic plateaus, on the basis of slight compo- literature of the 1990s and late 1980s. I have heard
sitional similarities to modern assemblages of such a number of these specialists argue that such
types, even where the Archean rocks at issue agreement itself demonstrates that plate tectonics
depositionally overlie older continental basement operated in Archean time. No advocate of the
rocks, platform strata, or felsic volcanic rocks. N o notion that assumptions are validated by repetition
146 V~ B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

is more outspoken than Kusky (1997), who sutures (although the term ophiolite has been
claimed that pro-plate interpretations of Archean misapplied to other Proterozoic mafic suites that
geology are correct, and must now be endorsed by share no diagnostic features with Phanerozoic
all, because they have been published in the ophiolites). Metamorphic rocks recording high
'modern peer-reviewed journal literature.' He ratios of pressure to temperature characterize
berated Goodwin (1996) for not accepting Phanerozoic sutures and are known locally in late
Archean plate tectonics--but if the facts are as Proterozoic, but not older, ones. Polymict
reported by Goodwin in his excellent book, then melanges with either serpentinite or scaly-clay mat-
those facts cannot be reconciled with plate-tectonic rixes are known from sutures of all Phanerozoic
models no matter what dogma is intoned by Kusky ages, but the oldest ones of which I am aware are
and those he follows. those of the late Proterozoic of Arabia (Pallister
My take on the peer-review system is not san- et al., 1988).
guine. In my geologic youth, conventional wisdom, The regional swarms of early Proterozoic mafic
and accordingly peer reviewers, strongly favored dikes in many Archean terrains have no recognized
permanent and stable continents and oceans, Archean counterparts, and occur on vastly larger
whereas nowadays collective hunches stretch plate- scales than Phanerozoic swarms. Individual dikes
tectonic models (and mythical plumes) to cover all within some swarms have proved lengths of as
occasions. I have run the peer-review gauntlet a much as several hundred kilometers. The great
hundred times or so. My papers describing and swarms of mafic dikes in the Superior craton are
interpreting geology in conventional terms have about 2.1--2.2 Ga (Buchan et al., 1996). Such
moved smoothly through, whereas my manuscripts dike swarms require that the middle and upper
challenging consensus concepts often have had crust were then semirigid, but were effectively
heavy going. I gave up on several manuscripts that decoupled from deeper crust or uppermost mantle
I still regard as among my best after a year or so which presumably thus contained a substantial
each of sequential nitpicking by consensus-sup- melt fraction. Obviously the early Proterozoic was
porting reviewers. Other geoscientists for whose still a time of crust and mantle temperatures much
work I have a very high regard, and who have hotter than modern ones.
challenged groupthink assumptions, report similar The nature of the transition, or overlap, between
experiences. the very different tectonic and magmatic regimes
There are times when the working definition of truth is taken of the pre-plate-tectonic, pre-2.6 Ga Archean and
to be the consensus of one's scientific intimates, the 'good old the plate-tectonic, post-2.0 Ga Proterozoic, and
boys.' Anything outside that limited horizon is discomforting the nature of the evolution of plate-tectonic pro-
and improper and is to be barred from consideration
cesses and products toward modern ones during
Parker (1997) Proterozoic time, are still poorly constrained. I do
not treat them here, but do note that the transition
1.3. Proterozoic tectonics must have reflected decreasing crust and mantle
temperatures, and may have been facilitated by
By about 2.0Ga, plate tectonics the rifting the increasing content of water and carbon dioxide
and aggregation of continental crustal masses that in the mantle as dense but hydrated delaminated
were internally little deformed--was underway. Archean crust sank into it.
Archean cratons were rifted across as well as along
their trends, continental-shelf assemblages were
deposited along those truncated margins, and con- 2. The Early earth
vergence and collisions juxtaposed disparate
Archean and Proterozoic components and pushed Archean time was closer to the beginning of
the shelf wedges back onto their cratons in thrust accretion of the Earth, about 4.56 Ga, and much
belts. Partial sections of probable ophiolites have closer to the end of accretion of megabolides,
been recognized in several early Proterozoic about 3.8Ga, than to the present. It thus is
W.B. Hamilton/Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 147

appropriate to begin this evaluation of the Archean The oldest well-documented large terrestrial
record with a brief perspective on the early Earth. impact structures and melts are the early
The Earth probably accreted mostly within Proterozoic Vredefort and Sudbury complexes, but
about 100 million years from the time of beginning the Archean record must contain impact complexes
of condensation from the solar nebula at about not yet recognized because of subsequent magma-
4.56 Ga, and at least the outer part of the accreting tism and deformation. The surface of the Earth,
Earth was melted, likely above liquidus temper- like that of the Moon, must have been wholly
atures, by impacts, core formation, contained heat recycled by impacts before 3.9 Ga, variably recy-
of impactors, and the mega-impact which formed cled until 3.8 Ga, and less pervasively modified
the Moon (e.g. Taylor, 1992, 1993; Lee and through middle Archean time. Glikson (1993) is
Halliday, 1995; Galer and Goldstein, 1996; among the few who have sought possible mega-
Jacobsen and Harper, 1996; papers by many impact effects in early Archean assemblages. On a
authors in Agee and Longhi, 1992). Crystallization small scale, Byerly and Lowe (1994) showed that
and fractionation of resulting magma oceans has Archean spherule beds in South Africa and
been discussed by Abe (1993), Jacobsen and Australia were of probable impact origin, and
Harper (1996), Warren (1992), and others, and Simonson (1992) documented the microtektitic
must have varied complexly with depth and time. origin of extensive spherules in Archean strata in
Most geochemical modeling incorporates the Australia.
assumption that the Earth has a chondritic bulk The possible impact origin of Archean fraction-
composition, whereas in fact the bulk Earth proba- ated magma lakes needs evaluation. One such
bly is markedly more refractory than chondrite extrusive melt sheet is the late Archean Gaborone
because of its high-temperature early history and complex of rhyolite over granophyre over granite
its aggregation mostly from materials condensed (over anorthosite?), all of the same precise zircon
much closer to the sun than were chondrites, most U-Pb age, in southern Africa (Moore et al., 1993).
of which come from the inner part, and the others Another is the large late Archean Stillwater frac-
from the medial part, of the heliocentrically zoned tionated melt sheet of Montana; the upper felsic
asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter (Hamilton, part has been lost to erosion, but the shallowest
1993 and references therein). Proto-atmosphere rocks preserved crystallized at such low pressure
and oceans may have been mostly added from that the complex must have been extrusive.
cometary materials. Most modeling incorporates Materials older than about 3.8 Ga may include
the additional dubious assumption that the Earth abundant impact breccia and impact melt, and
has fractionated unidirectionally throughout geo- materials older than about 3.9 Ga must include
logic time. Anderson (1998) demolishes the noble- much such. Terrestrial materials of such age can
gas rationales which have often been cited as have survived only as reworked protoliths within
requiring such fractionation. polycycic migmatites which underwent repeated
The impact history of the Moon necessarily episodes of partial melting, remobilization, recon-
transfers to the Earth (references in Hamilton, stitution, and injection; but the old materials never-
1993). The well-preserved giant lunar impact theless might yield evidence for and against impact
basins, to about 1000 km in diameter, date from histories if examined with impact in mind. Zircons,
about 3.9 to 3.8 Ga. Surfaces older than 3.9 Ga and cores and zones therein, in various compo-
are saturated with craters. The largest lunar impact nents of migmatites of the Acasta River area of
basin, recognizable in topography by its rim the Slave craton of the Canadian Shield yield
2500 km in diameter and on average 12 km above U-Pb ages scattering from 3.35 to 4.02Ga
its floor, is saturated by post-basin craters and is (Bowring et al., 1989; W. Bleeker, R. Stern, pers.
older than 3.9 Ga, but otherwise undated (Spudis comm., 1997). Migrnatization, recycling, variable
et al., 1994). Bombardment intensity decreased to partial remelting, and intrusion, under hydrous
a flux comparable to that of the Phanerozoic by conditions to produce hornblendic and biotitic
late Archean time. rocks at least in late stages, took place repeatedly
148 W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

within this period, and the older zircons are relicts rocks, expected in fractionated magma lakes, appa-
or xenocrysts in, or are in inclusions in, younger rently were in its source region.
tonalitic and granodioritic matrices. The character
of the original rocks in which the older zircons
crystallized has not been established. I visited the 3. Actualistic plate tectonics contrasted with
Acasta area with S.A. Bowring in 1994, and was Archean geology
impressed with the extremely--in my experience,
uniquely--heterolithic and disrupted character of The lithologies, structures, and relationships of
the migmatites. Ultramafic rock is abundant, in the components of active and late Phanerozoic
masses up to perhaps 100m long that consist plate-tectonic systems vary widely in detail, but
primarily of green amphibole. There is much mafic are broadly similar. When direct mechanistic anal-
rock also, now hornblende-rich and equilibrated ogy with such systems is postulated for ancient
with the hydrous matrix, but such mafic rock, rock suites, the prediction thus is implicit that
unlike the actinolitite, is common in tonalitic mig- similar assemblages and relationships should pre-
matites of any age worldwide. I presume that the vail in the ancient terrains. This prediction has not
pre-3.8 Ga components of these migmatites proba- been shown to be fulfilled in any Archean terrain.
bly include, and the pre-3.9 must include, impact
breccias and (as a component of such breccias?) 3.1. Convergent-plate systems
magma-lake fractionates. Such fractionates should
Most published convergent-margin models are
have crystallized at hotter and dryer conditions
unscaled cartoons that bear little geometric sim-
than the younger tonalitic matrix.
ilarity to any actual margin and that greatly distort
The character of the ancient zircons themselves
geometric relationships of structural and magmatic
may be found to constrain conditions of initial
features. Reference is recommended to such actua-
crystallization and thus to help discriminate
listic cross-sections through active convergent mar-
between impact and non-impact origins. Zircon
gins between oceanic and continental plates as
morphology tends to vary with temperature of
those derived from multidisciplinary geophysical
crystallization of igneous rocks and with ratio of and geological data for modern Vancouver Island
AI to alkalis, and between felsic and mafic rocks by Clowes et al. (1995), and for Sumatra, with
and between igneous and granulitic-metamorphic constraints added from the inactive and variably
rocks (Pupin, 1980; van Breeman et al., 1987). eroded Cretaceous margin of California, by
Perhaps magrnatic histories of the zircons can be Hamilton (1988, 1995).
constrained by studying compositional features Ancient convergent margins are no longer open-
such as heavy-rare-earth enrichment and the signs sided, with oceanic lithosphere preserved outboard
of Ce and Eu anomalies. A start in this direction of subduction complexes, but instead occur within
was made by Maas et al. (1992), who found 10 sutures--scars left where large or small ocean
4.2-3.9 Ga clastic zircons in 3.0 Ga quartzite to basins disappeared by subduction beneath one or
have steeply fractionated rare earths and low both now-juxtaposed high-standing crustal masses,
contents of Sc, indicating unusual felsic source which join aggregates of convergent and trailing-
rocks uncommonly low in Sc. (The felsites which edge plate-margin assemblages. The various com-
cap the voluminous silicic differentiates atop the ponents of the modern margins nevertheless can
early Proterozoic Bushveld magma lake, which I be recognized in suture zones within many
regard as likely of impact origin and which is Phanerozoic orogenic belts and thus provide strong
larger and more completely fractionated than the support for the general assumption that these belts
proved impact-melt lake of Sudbury, are uncom- record plate interactions analogous to modern
monly low in Sc: Twist and French, 1983.) Like ones. Oblique erosion has exposed crustal sections,
many Archean quartzites, this one is rich in fuchs- from shallow to deep in initial depth, through
ite, chromian muscovite, so chromitic ultramafic many of these Phanerozoic complexes, so it is
W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 149

possible to study directly variations with crustal to be thoroughly disrupted varies from millimeters
depth (Hamilton, 1989). to kilometers. In some wedges, all outcrops larger
Archean terrains also have been eroded to vari- than a few square meters are of chaotically dis-
able depths, but broad tracts have been eroded rupted materials; in other wedges, large masses are
less than 10 km, and many tracts of supracrustal internally coherent, although thoroughly disrupted
rocks have been minimally strained and metamor- at larger scale by anastomosing thrust faults and
phosed. It should therefore be easy to recognize zones of broken formation and scaly clay.
analogues with modem systems if such exist, but Materials accreted in wedges tend to become youn-
none of the modern plate-tectonic components has ger trenchward.
been demonstrated to have a credible analogue in Polymict melange, containing sheared rocks
Archean assemblages. mixed from widely varying sites of formation, is
common in most wedges, and dominates those
3.1.1. Accretionarywedges formed in open-ocean arcs whose trenches lack
Accretionary wedges form in front of and major sources of terrigenous sediment. Shreds of
beneath overriding tectonic plates and consist oceanic crust, islands, and mantle (as basalt, dia-
largely of materials scraped snowplow fashion base, gabbro, peridotite, and serpentinite) are
from subducting plates. (Much of this description intersheared with serpentinite, abyssal pelagic sedi-
is adapted from Hamilton, 1979, 1988.) Wedges ments, scaly clay, and other materials.
are thin, dynamic debris piles only 15 km or so Metamorphic rocks formed at relatively high
thick 75-150 km from trench axes. Their surfaces ratios of pressure to temperature are common in
are furrowed by longitudinal ridges and basins accretionary and subduction complexes of
defined mostly by imbricate thrust faults. Trench Phanerozoic ages. The high P/T rocks occur as
fills can be seen on reflection profiles to be scraped sheared clasts dispersed in lower-grade or unmeta-
off at the fronts of wedges, the shallowest materials morphosed melange in wedges and beneath the
being accreted against the toes, the deeper being leading parts of overriding plates, and also occur
accreted beneath the wedges farther back and so as coherent sheets between the bases of overriding
thickening them. The size of wedges varies with plates and deeper little-metamorphosed melange.
duration and rate of subduction and with the Rocks of blueschist and greenschist facies are
supply of sediment in the trench and on the typical, and those of epidote-amphibolite, garnet
incoming ocean floor. Sedimentation in trenches amphibolite, and eclogite facies less so, and com-
is primarily of longitudinal turbidites, which may monly have sedimentary or oceanic-lithospheric
extend thousands of kilometers from their river protoliths where formed in ocean-continent inter-
sources. The thickest ocean-floor sediments are acctions, but often have continental protoliths
generally abyssal-fan turbidites, which also may where continental collisions are involved. All of
extend great distances from their river sources, the high P/T rocks formed at pressures requiring
although pelagic sediments can be thick on old subduction beneath the fronts of overriding plates,
oceanic crust. for wedges in front of overriding plates are not
Both subsea drilling in modem accretionary thick enough to generate the required pressures.
wedges and field study of exposed Phanerozoic The high P/T rocks owe their formation to subduc-
wedges indicate that ratios of imbricated, dis- tion that outpaced thermal equilibration, and their
rupted, and coherently folded materials vary with preservation to their return to shallow levels before
convergence rates and with the thickness and char- heating inverted the rocks to normal P/T facies.
acter of sedimentary sections being accreted. Strata The kinematics of subduction, incorporating
are accreted as broken formation (strata chaoti- tomography of the mantle wedge between overrid-
cally disrupted into lenses), scaly clay (wherein ing and subducting plates, was discussed by
glossy shear folia can be split apart down to Hamilton (1995). The apparent lack of high P/T
submillimeter thicknesses), and imbricated sheets. rocks older than late Proterozoic presumably
The scale on which wedge materials can be seen reflects higher geothermal gradients before then.
150 W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

All Paleozoic and older oceanic lithosphere once There are, of course, many narrow shear zones
intervening between island-arc and continental in Archean rocks which contain tectonic mixtures
plates has been subducted, and the broken forma- of local wall rocks, but these are not analogous to
tion, polymict melange, high P/T rocks, and other subduction-related melanges of far-travelled bits.
components of former accretionary wedges are Skulski et al. (1994) described schistose serpentin-
variably preserved in sutures between collided ite, with basal pods of serpentinite-matrix
plates. The character of these disrupted materials 'melange' of local rock types, a few meters thick,
remains obvious in ancient sutures which have not along the base of a section of ultramafic and mafic
been subjected to subsequent very high-strain or volcanic rocks. Kusky (1991) made a specific claim
partial-melting metamorphism. Descriptions and for subduction-related melange in describing an
regional geologic maps across the great Tertiary outcrop of a shear zone of purportedly exotic
Makran accretionary wedge, 200km wide, of clasts: 'a thin wedge of serpentinite melange...
southeast Iran illustrate the variety and extent of [that] contains small (< 1 m), roughly equidimensi-
broken formations, polymict melanges, exotic onal blocks of bedded limestone, chert, isotropic
slices of diverse oceanic and arc materials, high gabbro, layered gabbro, basalt and graywacke.' !
P/T metamorphic rocks, imbricated strata, and so visited this locality in 1994, and it is not as Kusky
on that are jumbled together in wedges (McCall, stated. The matrix and all rocks in the shear zone,
1985a,b,c; McCall and Huber, 1979a,b; McCall which is only a few meters thick, are of local
and Eftekhar-Nezhad, 1993; McCall et al., 1979). provenance. Kusky's 'bedded limestone' is an
Many field photographs of typical wedge materials, angular block of talc-tremolite schist with veins of
mostly of Cenozoic and Mesozoic ages, are iron-bearing carbonate, and his 'chert' is vein
reproduced in Hamilton (1978, 1979). I have quartz. The clasts are angular blocks, not the
seen widespread similar materials in Cenozoic, sheared lenses or shear-polished ellipsoids that
Mesozoic, and Paleozoic sutures in many parts of typify accretionary wedges. Elsewhere, Kusky
the world, including poorly exposed regions. (1990) described a continuous sedimentary con-
glomerate that in one sector is synmetamorphically
3.1.2. Lack of Archean accretionary-wedge flattened, and he misleadingly termed the deformed
materials part 'wildflysch.'
I know of no documented examples of Archean Late Archean (about 2.65-2.70 Ga) graywacke,
disrupted rocks analogous to those briefly mudstone, volcaniclastic sediments, quartzose
described above and abundant as indicators of sandstone, and subordinate conglomerate, quartz-
subduction in Phanerozoic orogens. Williams ite, and iron formation, derived mostly from late
(1989) used terms suggesting that such disrupted granitic and felsic volcanic rocks, occur across the
materials are indeed present, but I have seen no entire Slave craton, 400 x 800 kin, of the north-
clear descriptions of polymict and pervasive-early- western Canadian Shield. These strata more or
deformation features such as characterize known less concordantly overlie, and are intercalated with,
wedges. Many geologists (e.g. Percival and felsic to mafic volcanic rocks, locally overlie older
Williams, 1989) have assumed that tracts of gneiss, and comprise about 3/4 of the preserved
Archean turbidites represent accretionary-wedge area of Archean supracrustal rocks (Henderson,
materials preserved in sutures. Kusky (1991) 1981; Padgham and Fyson, 1992; Hoffman, 1993;
illustrated his speculation that turbidites represent Padgham, 1995). No disruption of accretionary-
wedges with field photographs (his Figs 7b-d) wedge type has been recognized, and the regional
showing well-exposed coherent, unsheared strata. extent and stratigraphic successions preclude an
I have seen no suggestion of accretionary-wedge origin in a wedge (although such an origin never-
structure in the many large and small outcrops I theless was inferred by Fyson and Helmstaedt,
have visited of Archean turbidites, in part in the 1988). At least a substantial proportion of the
company of proponents of accretionary-wedge sedimentary rocks was deposited in shallow water,
interpretations. and none is proved to be of deep-water origin. An
w.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 151

intracratonic basin or basins, within which volca- tionary wedges and other subducting-plate materi-
noes grew, is the apparent setting (Padgham, als. Disrupted fragments, from millimeters to
1995). kilometers in size, of ophiolite also are widespread
Intracratonic-basin origins accord also with the in polymict melange in accretionary wedges. A few
description by Fralick et al. (1992) of shallow- possible Proterozoic ophiolites as old as about
water turbidites of the Superior craton, which fan 2 Ga have been identified (Helmstaedt and Scott,
away from volcanic edifices and were not deposited 1992), although these examples lack the tectonized
longitudinally as would typify trench or forearc mantle rocks that characterize the bases of modern
basins. The Superior turbidites were deposited in ophiolites.
short periods of time following cessation of green-
stone-belt magmatism (Davis et al., 1990). 3.1.4. Komatiite and the lack o f Archean ophiolite
Proponents of plate tectonics in Archean assem- Ultramafic lavas and sills of peridotite, komatiite
blages should seek, and describe if found, evidence and allied rocks are intercalated with basalts in
for pervasive and polymict deformation of accre- many Archean sections. Many of the ultramafic
tionary-wedge type. Absent such evidence, other rocks overlie continental crustal rocks and other
explanations for turbidite accumulations are evolved sedimentary and igneous rocks. Ultramafic
needed. komatiite lavas crystallized from extremely low
viscosity melts wherein olivine commonly was the
3.1.3. Ophiolite only liquidus phase over a broad cooling interval
Most modern subducting plates are dominated so that the distinctive spinifex textures of bladed
by oceanic crust and mantle with a characteristic olivine could develop in the upper zones of many
ophiolitic stratigraphy. This crust and mantle are ponded flows, although many others are merely
formed in divergent-plate settings, either by densely olivine-phyric throughout. Komatiite lavas
seafloor spreading or by marginal-basin rifting and and associated dunites, peridotites, and other frac-
fast migration of oceanic island arcs, and are tionates form composite flows recording individual
preserved as slices and fragments within and along eruptions with volumes that may have reached
sutures. Old mantle, mostly tectonized harzburgite several thousand cubic kilometers, and wherein
(orthopyroxene peridotite) residual after extraction the komatiites proper may mostly represent quietly
of basaltic melts, is overlain by the products of crystallized overbank flows from major channels
fractionation of those melts. The basal fractionates (Hill et al., 1990, 1995).
are ultramafic cumulates (the geophysical These Archean ultramafic rocks bear no petro-
Mohorovi6i6 discontinuity is within the petrologic logic similarity to either the residual harzburgites
crust), and these give way upward to mafic cumu- or the ultramafic cumulates of ophiolites, even as
lates, and those to more massive gabbros with or isolated samples; they do not occur in ophiolite-
without subordinate plagiogranites. These in turn type successions; they often depositionally overlie
typically are overlain by complexes of sheeted or are interbedded with continental rocks; and
diabase dikes and sills, those by pillow basalts, the they do not fulfill the implicit predictions of tec-
basalts in turn commonly by deepwater pelagic tonic analogy. No associated residual harzburgite
sediments, and those often by trench turbidites. or other indicators of ophiolite stratigraphy have
Steady-state magma chambers in dynamic spread- been found. The Archean ultramafic lavas com-
ing systems are needed to explain such consistent monly are intercalated with low-alkali olivine bas-
sequences. alts, which differ from modern seafloor basalts in
Such ophiolites are known in abundance in having both generally higher Mg contents and
Phanerozoic suture complexes. They occur as great higher Mg/Fe ratios at given Mg contents, and
sheets, commonly forming the leading edges of also in having generally lower contents of A1 and
overriding plates and the basements of fore-arc- of incompatible elements (Cattell and Taylor,
basin strata; such sheets often preserve the entire 1990).
ophiolite sequence, and are ramped on to accre- The oldest well-studied greenstone belt is the
152 W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143 179

Barberton belt of South Africa, where thick sec- presence of xenocryst zircons, geochemical and
tions of komatiitic and basaltic-komatiitic lavas isotopic evidence for crustal contamination, intru-
are present but the oldest preserved supracrustal sive relationships with older basement and their
rocks are felsic metatuffs, zircon U - P b age about internal stratigraphy, that none of these examples
3.54 Ga, depositionally beneath and interbedded is derived from Archean oceanic crust.' I concur.
with the oldest of those ultramafic and mafic rocks I return to komatiite in subsequent sections.
(Lowe, 1994). The overlying thick mafic and ultra-
mafic lavas contain chert units and rare felsic tufts, 3.1.5. Forearc basins
and are conformably overlain in turn by felsic Between the forearc ridge (or outer-arc ridge),
volcanic rocks, about 3.25 Ga, and clastic sedi- which is the crest of the accretionary wedge, and
mentary rocks (Lowe, 1994). The mafic and ultra- the magmatic arc of many active subduction sys-
mafic rocks are in contact with older, to 3.64 Ga, tems is a fore-arc, or outer-arc, basin, typically
zircon-dated tonalitic gneisses (Kr6ner and Todt, 100-200 km wide, whose strata are up to 15 km
1988; de Ronde and de Wit, 1994). The ultramafic thick and overlie the thin leading edge of
and mafic rocks were intruded from beneath by an overriding continental or island-arc plate
tonalites little younger than themselves, so by the (Hamilton, 1988). The basement of well-known
time of this tonalitic magmatism substantial active and ancient basins is continental or island-
hydrated crust underlay the exposed ultramafic arc on the landward side but ophiolitic on the
rocks (Section 3.1.14). Eruption of the mafic and seaward side. Structurally beneath the ophiolitic
ultramafic rocks at least partly through older, basement is accretionary-wedge material. No
evolved crust is indicated. Archean analogs are known.
In the Yellowknife region of the Slave craton,
Helmstaedt and Padgham (1986) found numerous 3.1.6. M a g m a t i c arcs
thin dikes of synvolcanic gabbro cutting pillow Volcanic rocks in modern magmatic arcs com-
basalts, indicating local extension at that structural monly are erupted from centers standing about
level, but the basalts stratigraphically overlie sedi- 100 km above subducting plates of oceanic litho-
mentary rocks, and there is no suggestion of sphere. (Much of this description is adapted from
ophiolitic stratigraphy. Elsewhere nearby, ana- Hamilton, 1995.) The composition of volcanic
logous basalts depositionally overlie zircon-dated rocks varies with the thickness and petrologic
middle Archean tonalitic gneisses (Isachsen and maturity of the crust through which their magmas
Bowring, 1994). erupt. Volcanic rocks in young intra-oceanic island
Kusky (1991;p. 824 and Fig. 5) claimed to have arcs of small crustal volume are dominantly low-A1
found in the Slave craton an outcrop of an ophio- olivine tholeiites which differ from spreading-ridge
litic 'sheeted dike complex... [wherein] Dikes show basalts primarily in their generally lower contents
preferential (70%) one-way chilling with most of high-field-strength elements such as Ti, Zr and
dikes indicating spreading center to the northwest.' Hf. Rocks erupted in mature oceanic island arcs
These features do not exist. I visited this outcrop are typically calc-alkalic basalt, andesite, and sub-
in 1994 and my companions and I found it to ordinate dacite, within which the proportion of
consist of uniform hornblende schist. Kusky's pur- intermediate rocks commonly increases with
ported dike contacts are merely joints following crustal volume of the arc on which they form.
foliation, and there is no change in texture or grain Plagioclase-phyric two-pyroxene high-Al basalt
size of the schist at or near these joints. and andesite are abundant. None of these features
Many investigators (e.g. de Wit et al., 1987) is, however, unique to arc settings.
assume that any occurrence of ultramafic and Volcanic-arc melts erupted through continental
mafic lavas requires an origin in primitive oceanic crust, or through thick terrigenous sedimentary
crust. Bickle et al. (1995) reviewed the geology of rocks proxying for such crust, commonly contain
a number of purported Archean ophiolites and much crustal material and are much more silicic
concluded 'on the basis of basal unconformities, in bulk composition, and more evolved isotopi-
IV..R Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 153

cally, than oceanic-arc rocks. The systematic rela- existing continental crust and overlying strata
tionships between volcanic rocks and the crust severely deform it; early plutons may have intruded
through which they are erupted occur along con- concordantly to major lithologic boundaries, but
tinuous magmatic arcs which cross from oceanic later ones are sharply and irregularly cross cutting
to continental crust. They occur also along con- (e.g. Bateman, 1992, central and eastern Sierra
tinuous oceanic arcs in which the age of inception Nevada). Plutons intruded into thick stratigraphic
becomes younger along their lengths. It is an sections form fat blisters (e.g. Ross, 1967; Sylvester
obvious inference that arc magmas that enter the et al., 1978). These pluton modes neither geometri-
crust are at least as primitive as olivine tholeiite cally nor structurally resemble those typical of
and that aluminous and silicic arc rocks owe their Archean granite-and-greenstone terrains.
character to processes operating within the crust
(Section 3.1.14). The same inference comes from 3.1.7. A r c h e a n granite-and-greenstone terra&s are
the variations with depth in upramped sections not volcanic arcs
exposed through continental and oceanic crust, for The dominant Archean upper-crustal assem-
these display underplating by great gabbroic and blages comprise granite-and-greenstone terrains,
ultramafic complexes wherein the geophysical the rocks of which vary globally from about 3.6
Mohoroviri6 discontinuity is within those com- to 2.6 Ga in age but within any one craton are
plexes; more evolved rocks are formed only much mostly contained within an age range of 100
higher in the crustal sections. million years or so. Geologic maps of well-exposed
Exposed in obliquely eroded crustal sections and well-mapped terrains show them to be typified
beneath the volcanic and hypabyssal rocks of by domiform batholiths, 20-100 km long and 2/3
magmatic arcs, and paralleling them in composi- as wide, whose subparallel elliptical or oval map
tion, are stocks and batholiths and, beneath those patterns are outlined by networks ('greenstone
in turn, gneisses and migmatites, and next granu- belts') of commonly upright synforms of volcanic
lites. In mature oceanic arcs, the dominant granitic and sedimentary rocks. The synforms can be
rocks are diorite, tonalite and granodiorite (typi- tightly appressed and complex where between
cally calcic and mafic) in the upper crust, and close-spaced plutons, but open, simple, and little
migmatites dominated by amphibolite, tonalite, strained where more distant from plutons
and trondhjemite in the middle crust. In continen- (Hickman, 1983; Hickman and Lipple, 1978).
tal arcs wherein old continental crust and clastic These patterns of domiform plutons and synformal
sedimentary rocks have been recycled, potassic wallrocks contrast strikingly with patterns of the
granitic rocks are widespread. Phanerozoic plutons and wallrocks such as those
Rock types in Phanerozoic magmatic-arc com- mentioned in the preceding section.
plexes, either intrusive or extrusive, are unimodal Well-studied and well-dated low-strain green-
on large scales, although there is much bimodality stone belts display thick, coherent sections with
on small scales of both space and time. Frequency repeated stratigraphic intercalations of felsic,
distributions of silica contents are high and narrow mafic, and ultramafic volcanic rocks, and sedi-
for primitive island arcs, and broad and asymmet- mentary rocks, which underwent little deformation
ric, with a peak near the high-silica end, for before late diapiric plutonism. These sections have
continental batholithic complexes. no modern analogues, for the closest common
In composites of Phanerozoic island arcs modern equivalents of these diverse volcanic rocks
accreted to continents and exposed at upper crustal form in widely disparate tectonic settings and do
levels, plutons break irregularly through diverse not occur in continuous stratigraphic sections of
aggregates of volcanic-arc rocks, ophiolites, and repeating contrasted types. Geologic studies of
accretionary wedges; many small plutons are domi- greenstone belts commonly have been confined to
form but large ones are not (e.g. Bateman, 1992, parts of single belts, which can be quite complex
western Sierra Nevada; Davis et al., 1965; in volcano-stratigraphic detail, and few attempts
Hietanen, 1973). Plutons breaking through pre- have been made to evaluate possible initial stratal
154 ~ldB. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

continuity between belts now across strike from eruption across the region during a short period
one another, but such attempts where made com- (Nelson, 1997). The steep-dipping ultramafic unit
monly show regional or subregional stratigraphic is 1-3 km thick, and continuous within the green-
continuity. stone belts, over a 90 x 110 km area mapped by
The late Archean Swayze greenstone belt of Walker and Blight (1983). Thick basalts and felsic
Ontario, for example, presents sequences of felsic, volcanic rocks below and above the ultramafic
mafic, and ultramafic rocks, and sedimentary unit, and the minor sedimentary rocks above it,
rocks, in a coherent and continuously upward- lack such obvious regional continuity, but insofar
facing section (Heather et al., 1995). The succes- as zircon-dated are mostly within the narrow span
sion, in order upwards, is felsic and intermediate of 2.71-2.66 Ga; late granites are mostly about
volcanic rocks; iron formation; subaqueous bas- 2.67 2.66 G a (Nelson, 1997).
alts; felsic to intermediate volcanic rocks; komati- Regional stratigraphic continuity of greenstone-
ite, komatiitic basalt, and pillow basalt; and felsic belt rocks has been inferred across the northwest
to intermediate volcanic rocks. Zircon U - P b Yilgarn also, although I have not seen support in
dating of the three felsic-volcanic sequences shows
the form of U - P b ages. Watkins and Hickman
the section to be in stratigraphic order and to have
(1990) reported this regional section, in order
been deposited over a total time span of about 40
upward: mafic and ultramafic volcanic
million years. The iron formation has a proved
r o c k s + b a n d e d iron formation; felsic volcanic
continuity, and a constant position atop the early
rocks + volcaniclastic and pelitic sedimentary
felsic sequence, over a local area of about
rocks; basalt + high-Mg basalt_+ banded iron for-
80 x 80 km. The main iron formation of the Abitibi
greenstone belt, which extends far eastward from mation; calc-alkaline volcanic rocks and volcani-
the Swayze area across Ontario into Quebec, clatic sediments + clastic strata, no iron formation.
closely resembles that of Swayze and similarly About 70 percent of the total section is mafic,
overlies felsic volcanic rocks, suggesting regional basalt > high Mg basalt > ultramafic lavas.
sheet stratigraphy of this lower part of the section The most continuously exposed Archean gran-
(K.B. Heather, pers. commn., 1997). ite-and-greenstone terrain is that of the Pilbara
A very thick late Archean homoclinal, low- craton, for the greenstone belts of which Hickman
strain greenstone-belt section in the Slave craton (1983) inferred broad regional stratigraphic coher-
has been well studied (Helmstaedt and Padgham, ence. His reconnaissance mapping and air-photo
1986 and references therein) and constrained by interpretation of the craton accords with the color
zircon U - P b dates (Isachsen et al., 1991). The Thematic Mapper imagery now available for the
oldest rocks exposed in some sectors are terrige- craton. There are large low-strain sectors of the
nous clastic sediments, and in others, a basement greenstone belts, for example where triangular
of tonalitic gneiss. Above these are, in order synforms formed between three domiform batho-
upward, basalt flows with gabbro sills; calc-alkalic liths, and in these stratigraphic continuity is strik-
dacite and rhyodacite; basalt breccias and pillow ingly obvious on the imagery.
flows; intercalated mafic and felsic volcanic rocks
and conglomerates; and turbidites. 'The stratigraphic succession of the Warrawoona Group [the
Throughout a well-studied region about 200 km lower part of the supracrustal section, consisting of 8 km or so
of basalt, high-Mg basalt, and komatiite, and subordinate chert
wide across the strike of a number of greenstone and banded iron formation] is tabular and extends over an
belts and domiform batholiths, and 150 km long area of at least 60 000 km2 [the total area of the Pilbara granite-
parallel to the strike, in the eastern Yilgarn craton and-greenstone exposures[. Individual formations [within the
group] can be traced continuously between some of the green-
of Western Australia, a unit of komatiite and allied stone belts, establishing that the major synclines are entirely
ultramafic lavas is widely preserved. The unit is tectonic in origin and bear no direct relationship to deposi-
dated in three places, and closely bracketed in tional basins'
several others, by ion-probe U - P b zircon determin-
ations as about 2.705 Ga, and records voluminous Hickman, 1983, p. 172-3.
W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 155

This regional character 'rules out deposition in occurrence in the Pilbara craton of Western
geosynclines located in the present positions of the Australia, 3.46 Ga shallow-water basalt, magne-
greenstone belts...which reveal no evidence of sian basalt, and chert lie regionally upon a prob-
facies changes or primary stratigraphic thinning able paleosol atop deformed 3.62Ga basalt,
towards syncline margins. Where attenuation is komatiitic basalt, and shallow-water dacite and
present, it is accompanied by such features as rhyolite: the old complex was above sea level
deformed pillows and development of schistosity, before the younger was erupted (Buick et al.,
indicating its tectonic origin.' It 'also precludes 1995).
any model involving migrating depositories' such The mafic sequences of greenstone belts formed
as have been proposed in the Yilgarn block and both as broad coalescing volcanoes that comprised
the Canadian shield (Hickman, 1983, p. 273). submarine lava plains, and as large shield volca-
Precise zircon U-Pb dating is still too sparse to noes that reached above sea level (Ayres and
rigorously test this stratigraphic synthesis in the Thurston, 1985; Watkins and Hickman, 1990).
Pilbara, and some local-area Pilbara geologists Ultramafic lavas (komatiites), cumulates, and sills
emphasize irregularities inherent in volcanic units are intercalated in many of the basaltic sections.
and dispute regional continuity (references in The voluminous intermediate or felsic volcanic
Trendall, 1995). rocks that conformably or semiconformably over-
The lower parts of many greenstone-belt lie the basalts, or are intercalated with them, in
supracrustal sequences are dominated by low- many regions represent more local volcanic edi-
alkali olivine basalts, up to 10 km in present struc- fices, which commonly reached above sea level,
tural thickness, with or without ultramafic rocks, and their clastic debris (Goodwin, 1982, 1996;
and the upper parts often have thinner sedimentary Lowe, 1982; Watkins and Hickman, 1990; Ayres
and felsic or intermediate or bimodal volcanic
and Thurston, 1985). Synvolcanic plutons lie
rocks (Goodwin, 1977, 1982, 1996; Naldrett and
within many sequences.
Smith, 1981; Condie, 1984; Ayres and Thurston,
Modem intermediate and felsic volcanic rocks
1985; Ayres and Corfu, 1991). Many mafic
are most common in continental volcanic arcs and
sequences, however, with or without ultramafic
highly evolved island arcs, and many investigators
rocks, lie depositionally above broadly continuous
assume that Archean intermediate and felsic rocks
sedimentary rocks or felsic volcanic rocks, and
must have formed above subducting slabs. Such
many continuous sections contain several mafic-
and-felsic sequences (Hickman and Lipple, 1978; rocks are by no means restricted to arc settings in
Hickman, 1983; Helmstaedt and Padgham, 1986; the modern Earth, however, and are widespread
Card and Sanford, 1989; Thorpe et al., 1990; also in severely extensional settings and in some
Williams and Collins, 1990; Heather et al., 1995; continental rift-shoulder regions. Similar Archean
Wilson et al., 1995). Inherited zircons in many and modern rocks may reflect similar conditions
felsic rocks require that their melts reacted with, of melting and equilibration, but such similarity
or were derived from, petrologically evolved rocks in no way constrains the tectonic settings of their
at depth even where only mafic and ultramafic heat sources. Intermediate and felsic calc-alkalic
rocks are now exposed beneath them (e.g. Kr6ner melts require the partial melting of hydrous crustal
et al., 1991 ). In many places, mafic and ultramafic rocks (Section 3.1.14). Partial melting of amphibo-
lavas lie upon older felsic basement gneisses lites produces tonalites and dacites, and partial
(e.g. Kr6ner and Todt, 1988), or successions of melting of their hydrated equivalents in turn pro-
cratonic basement and sediments, as in the upward duces trondhjemite; partial melting of micaceous
successions of basement granites, quartz metasedimentary rocks, or pre-existing granites or
sandstones + conglomerates + stromatolitic (very gneisses, produces granodiorites, quartz monzo-
shallow water) carbonates, banded iron forma- nites, and granites. Heat commonly is now intro-
tions, and tholeiites+ultramafic rocks described duced into the crust by mafic melts rising from the
by Thurston and Chivers (1990). In one such mantle, but it is the tectonothermal setting of those
156 W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

primary melts, and of possible Archean analogues, back to 3.00 or 3.05 Ga, and a few ages are as
that is to be determined, not assumed. young as 2.6Ga. Plutonic and volcanic rocks
Archean volcanic assemblages commonly are largely overlap in age although the large late
bimodal-basalt and ultramafic rocks on the one diapiric batholiths commonly postdate most
hand, and dacite, rhyodacite, and in many cases nearby volcanic rocks by 10-20 million years.
rhyolite, on the o t h e r - - e v e n where the contrasted Slight local cross-strike offsets of broadly overlap-
rock types are intercalated in continuous sections. ping ages have been interpreted by a number of
By contrast, Phanerozoic arc assemblages com- investigators (e.g. Card, 1990; Kimura et al., 1993;
monly are unimodal. Andesites, which are the peak Jackson and Cruden, 1995) to represent migrating
volcanic-rock types in many mature, evolved oce- or successively accreted arcs, but no general trends
anic island arcs, are uncommon in most Archean in ages support such inferences, and well-dated
assemblages wherein basaltic and dacitic rocks are rocks in adjacent belts represented by many age
voluminous. determinations have not been shown to differ in
Clastic sediments in late Archean assemblages age more than do those within belts.
are dominantly volcanigenic, equivalent to nearby As discussed further in Section 3.1.11, the belts
felsic volcanic rocks, and were deposited in subaer- at issue are late features, defined not by strati-
ial and submarine fans and basins (Lowe, 1982; graphic or volcanologic features but instead by the
Ojakangas, 1985). By contrast, sedimentary rocks anastomosing trends of the complex synforms into
in older Archean granite-and-greenstone terrains which the volcanic and sedimentary rocks were
are dominated by shallow-water silicified volcani- deformed as late diapiric batholiths shouldered
clastic sediments, banded chert, carbonaceous them aside. No one has demonstrated that pre-
chert, silicified evaporites, and, locally, stromato- batholithic rocks record in their primary volcanic
litic carbonate (Lowe, 1982). Chemical and bio- and sedimentary geology any control of those
genic sediments (banded iron formation, chert and future trends.
ferruginous chert, uncommon stromatolitic car- The general picture I, like Goodwin (1996),
bonates) intercalated in Archean assemblages derive from the conflicting interpretations of green-
reflect the generally reducing or low-oxygen char- stone belts is that for most of their histories their
acter of Archean atmosphere and ocean (Buick, regions typically evolved as vast terrains of subaer-
1992; Walker, 1977). Maximum water depths of ial and submarine volcanoes and lava plains, and
deposition of basalt-and-komatiite plains and tur- subjacent plutons, gneisses, and migrnatites, which
bidites are disputed; there are no unequivocal built to crustal thicknesses of perhaps 40 km within
indicators of great water depths and at least most periods of less than 100 million years within any
of the sedimentary rocks and many of the basalt- one terrain. Magrnatic heat sources were regional,
and-komatiite sections are of shallow water origin. not linear; neither spreading centers nor magmatic
Plutons and wall-rock networks are elongated arcs existed within the assemblages preserved in
in subparallel fashion across any large remnant of surviving cratons. Many successions are seen to
an Archean craton. The several hundred precise be ensialic, built on still older evolved-continental
zircon U - P b age determinations from the many or volcanic assemblages. Others can be inferred
poorly defined along-strike zones ('belts') of the on isotopic grounds to have formed directly upon
Superior craton show no systematic age pro- mantle rocks, but no such contacts have been
gression across the 1300 km cross-strike width of recognized in the field. All lithologies, save the
the province (Corfu et al., 1989; Card, 1990, Fig. ancient, pre-greenstone basement tonalites pre-
3; Corfu and Ayres, 1991). Ages of plutonic and served in many cratons, are explicable in terms of
felsic-volcanic rocks are generally concentrated the rise of basaltic and ultramafic magmas from
within less than 100 million years in each belt, the mantle followed by variable eruption, fraction-
overlap broadly between belts, and commonly are ation, and contamination of such magmas, and by
centered between about 2.72 and 2.70 Ga in all of secondary melting of them or produced by them.
them. In a number of belts, sparse ages scatter Deformation generally was only moderate before
W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 157

the climactic episodes of granite diapirism, dis- rather than to simply be indicative of similar
cussed subsequently. physical conditions of melting and equilibration.
Further, many Archean suites differ markedly in
3.1.8. Invalidity of complex-aggregation composition (as, in the typically steeper fraction-
speculations ation of rare-earth elements in Archean tonalites,
Well-studied and well-dated low-strain green- and the commonly higher Mg and Mg/Fe in
stone belts display thick, coherent sections with, basalts) from the idealized concepts of those
often, repeated stratigraphic intercalations of modern assemblages to which they are presumed
felsic, mafic, and ultramafic volcanic rocks, and analogous.
sedimentary rocks, which underwent little defor- Exceedingly complex deformation, older than
mation before late diapiric plutonism. I see no the late granites, nevertheless has been postulated,
modern analogues for these sections. on the basis almost entirely of these dubious
Proponents of Archean plate tectonics working discriminants, for many greenstone belts. It is my
in greenstone belts nevertheless do seek modern contention, strongly disputed by plate-favoring
analogues. Their usual method (e.g. Barrie et al., Archean specialists, that such conjectural deforma-
1993; Feng et al., 1993; Percival et al., 1994) is to tion has nowhere been well constrained. Where
infer from vague or quantitative petrologic dis- exposures and mapping are good, zircon dating
criminants diverse tectonomagmatic settings of provides tight control, and late deformation of the
igneous rocks in an assemblage and then to assume entire assemblage has not obliterated facing direc-
that the assemblage was aggregated, from rocks tions and other essential relationships, stratal and
formed in those diverse settings in widely separated depositional continuity, not disruption, is dis-
locales, by intricate combinations of rifting, sub- played. Where constraints are inadequate because
duction, strike-slip, and collision. The complexi- these conditions are not all met, wild structures
ties thus deduced are not supported by observed have in places been inferred on the basis of petro-
structures and are incompatible with the common logic discriminants. For example, de Wit et al.
broadly concordant character, both structurally (1987) invoked complex interthrusting of mafic
and metamorphically, of continuous thick sections, and felsic rocks during several periods of severe
so the lithologic discriminants used to assign initial deformation to explain concordant juxtapositions
tectonic settings apparently have been misapplied. of mafic and felsic volcanic rocks in the Barberton
The geochemical relationships commonly used for greenstone terrain of South Africa. Their specula-
identification of Archean tectonic settings in fact tion was disproved subsequently by many precise
have only inconsistent and widely overlapping zircon U-Pb dates which showed the belt to have
applicability even for rock assemblages in known a generally nonrepeating stratigraphy and to have
modern settings, the exceptions within modern been deformed primarily during and after depos-
assemblages being almost as common as the ition of the youngest part of the section (Kamo
agreements. The discriminants have been derived and Davis, 1994).
mostly from fresh volcanic rocks, and from a few The l0 10 kin Vizien area in the northeastern
among many provinces of each petrotectonic type, Superior craton is purported to contain thin, con-
and then have been misapplied not only to all cordant sheets of rocks juxtaposed from initially
other volcanic assemblages, including highly far-separated settings, but the extreme tectonic
altered volcanic rocks, but also to plutonic rocks scrambling, postulated from geochemical conjec-
formed at all crustal depths (thus assuming, incor- tures, has no modern analogues and appears to
rectly, that pressure, temperature, and volatiles me to be contraindicated by the proponents' own
play no role in melt compositions). The closest data. Percival and his associates (Percival et al.,
lithologic analogues of the classified assemblages 1993, 1994; Skulski et al., 1994; Lin et al., 1996;
are then presumed to have been produced by the Skulski and Percival, 1996) presented maps,
same heat sources as those assumed (but in fact descriptions, and interpretations of stratiform
poorly constrained) for the classified assemblages, rocks deformed during contact metamorphism at
158 W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

middle-amphibolite facies at a depth of about which can thus be cited in support of such defor-
l0 km. I see in their geologic map a nonrepeating mation, so if my reading of the map is correct,
stratigraphic stack. They deduced from trace-ele- then this date must be misinterpreted or in error.
ment compositions that the volcanic rocks formed J.A. Percival gave me in 1997 the unpublished
in unrelated settings far a p a r t - - a 'plume-derived Pb/U concordia plot for this sample, and assured
oceanic plateau,' a continental volcanic arc, a me that the sample is from a large and obvious
synmagmatically rifted arc from a different conti- low-strain boulder. The plot shows one almost-
nent, and a back-arc continental rift--and then concordant single-zircon point, 2718 + 5 Ma, and
were shuffled by premetamorphic subduction- three very discordant single-grain points, not on a
related thrusting to produce four thin allochtho- chord, indicative of poorly constrained older age
nous sheets above autochthonous(?) continental or ages. The concordance and modest analytical-
basement within this very small area. (Inter- uncertainty bars of the critical 2.718 Ga date show
pretations became more complex through time that analytical error is unlikely to account for the
in the series of papers as more trace-element problem I perceive. The zircon age is appropriate
analyses were made.) Although most rocks are for that of contact metamorphism and perhaps
severely flattened and elongated, discontinuous was reset, although the metamorphic temperature,
shear zones of local rock types along several near 600C, is lower than expected for such
contacts were termed 'melange.' U - P b zircon ages resetting.
accord with the nonrepeating stratal sequence I Other inferences of far-travelled components
read from their geologic map. In order upward: interthrust complexly to produce apparently con-
tonalitic basement complex, three dates, cordant successions have yet to be tested by dating
3.1-2.9 Ga; basal conglomerate (see following dis- but will not, I expect, survive such testing. For
cussion) beneath other clastic sedimentary rocks example, Kimura et al. (1993) speculated that a
and, at the top of the section, interlayered basalt; thick section of ultramafic, mafic, and calc-alkaline
mafic and ultramafic lavas and sills, one date, felsic igneous rocks, turbiditic and shallow-water
2.786 Ga; interbedded mafic and felsic rocks, one clastic rocks, and banded iron formation, with
date of the latter in each of two areas, 2.724 and many irregular repetitions of types, broadly con-
2.722 Ga. Late granites in the region, both shallow cordant over an area of 140 x 20 km and mapped
and mid-crustal, have ages scattered from 2.73 to and described by others as a continuous strati-
2.69 Ga (Stern et al., 1994), bracketing the deter- graphic succession, instead had been assembled by
minations of the felsic volcanic rocks. Supracrustal layer-parallel thrusting by both orthogonal and
assemblages elsewhere in the region also begin oblique subduction in a composite 'accretionary
with a basal conglomerate upon tonalitic basement wedge.' They assumed that the diverse rock types
(Percival et al., 1996). formed in widely separated oceanic plateaus, mid-
The Vizien basal conglomerate is dominated by ocean ridge crests, pull-apart basins, island arcs,
boulders of the locally underlying tonalitic base- and unspecified sedimentary settings, had been
ment complex ( U Pb zircon dates from one deformed separately in each of those settings, and
cobble, about 2.955 Ga). The conglomerate also then had been assembled by subduction into a
contains 'a large boulder of graphic granite with regionally concordant and metamorphically iso-
a heterogeneous population of zircons giving facial stack. Phanerozoic accretionary wedges of
single-grain Pb/Pb ages from 2708 to > 3000 Ma... course lack any such layer continuity of far-trans-
interpreted as a mixture of inherited and igneous ported but nondisrupted materials. Kimura et al.
zircons' (Percival et al., 1993). The one young mentioned only one example of shearing observed
determination has been repeatedly cited, later as along a contact, 'a several centimeter thick mylo-
2718 Ma, in papers by the Percival group as pro- n i t e ' - - a trivial fault r o c k ~ a n d recognized no
viding a maximum age for the conglomerate and melange or broken formation.
thus as requiring thrust faulting. This is the only Ayres and Corfu (1991) interpreted a small
determination among the many in the map-area Superior craton area, mapped in reconnaissance
W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143 179 159

with wastebasket units, to contain three or four with lower specific gravity.' Many authors since,
thrust sheets of disparate assemblages. U - P b with widely varying models in mind of magmatism,
zircon age determinations date some rocks but do semisolid flow, and folding, have also emphasized
not require the structural framework, which to me the diapiric nature of the batholiths. Most of these
is geometrically implausible. models predated zircon dating, and I will not
Several geologists have attempted, in my view discuss them here.
implausibly and certainly with no conceivable The batholiths have subuniform areal densities
modern analogues, to explain broad regional stra- over broad tracts. New low-density melts and
tigraphy of Archean volcanic rocks in terms of remobilized older mid-crustal rocks rose as aggre-
plate amalgamation. Myers (1995) speculated that gating batholiths, and denser volcanic rocks were
many subduction systems operated simultaneously pushed aside and sank between them. The rising
to produce widely separated, but stratigraphically diapirs included widely varying proportions of new
similar, buildups which then were brought together magma, crystal mushes, and variably remobilized
and sutured invisibly to produce the illusion of older plutonic rocks. Many batholiths consist of
regional stratigraphy in the Yilgarn craton. Swager broadly uniform granodiorite or quartz monzonite,
(1995) speculated, quite differently although also and others are composites of tonalite, trondhjem-
appealing to simultaneous development followed ite, and granodiorite. One well-studied composite
by appropriately precise suturing, that Yilgarn batholith is a 30 x 50-km dome of leucotonalite,
'greenstone terranes represent stacked and col- trondhjemite, and granodiorite, including both
lapsed basins.' His conjectural patterns of unex- young igneous phases which are relatively uniform
posed duplexed thrust and strike-slip faults make and carry only the doming fabric, and old, migma-
no geometric sense even in his own terms: hypo- titic, remobilized phases which preserve also pre-
thetical sutures are drawn along layering, bounding diapiric deep-crustal fabrics (Ayres et al., 1991).
lithologic units, or wastebaskets thereof, without The domiform batholiths in any one region typi-
offsetting them in any reasonable fashion, and cally were intruded over a time span of only about
then abruptly end. l0 million years, very late in the magmatic history
of that region (Ridley, 1992).
3.1.9. Archean late domiform batholiths have no The typically upright-synformal character,
modern analogues though often complex in detail, of the volcanic
Too many Archean specialists have lost sight and sedimentary rocks (e.g. Ayres and Thurston,
of the confinement of the unique granite-and- 1985; Chown et al., 1992; Hickman and Lipple,
greenstone association to Archean cratons 1978, Macgregor, 1951) between domiform batho-
(Sections3.1.6 and 3.1.7). These upper-crustal liths in contact with the stratigraphically lowest
assemblages are typified by domiform diapiric units preserved is powerful evidence that the batho-
batholiths, elliptical or oval in plan, 20-100 km liths rose into stratiform successions of generally
long and about 2/3 as wide and regionally subpar- simple prior structural history. Contacts are irregu-
allel, outlined by anastomosing networks ('green- lar and crosscutting in detail but in many sectors
stone belts') of open and simple to tightly crumpled have little stratigraphic relief for lengths of many
synforms of volcanic and sedimentary rocks (e.g. kilometers. Triangular synforms are present in
Macgregor, 1951; Rhodesia Geological Survey, corners between three batholiths. In the Superior
1977; Blackburn, 1981; Hickman, 1983; Ayres and craton, most greenstone-belt metamorphism was
Thurston, 1985). Macgregor (1951) was perhaps contact metamorphism by the batholiths, and
the first to recognize that these 'gregarious batho- aureoles typically are zoned outward from discon-
liths' and intervening synclines characterize tinuous hornblende hornfels through narrow
Archean shields and distinguish them from youn- amphibolite facies to broad greenschist and, where
ger orogens. He also recognized that the batholiths plutons are most distant, subgreenschist, facies
were diapiric and that they formed because 'a (Ayres, 1978). Most of the deformation in the
relatively thin crust rests upon a mobile substratum stratiform rocks was synchronous with contact
160 W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

metamorphism and commonly decreases away the mantle, and by radioactive disintegration of
from the batholiths. Little-strained rocks are wide- 23Su, 235U, 232Th, and 4K within the crust. Decay
spread in many regions. That the deformation was over time has reduced the amount of heat gener-
due primarily to the rising diapirs is indicated by ated by these isotopes by a factor of 2 or 3 since
the characteristic downdip stretching and crossdip 3 Ga (Fowler, 1990, Table 7.2; Thompson et al.,
flattening, shown by the common triaxial deforma- 1995). Archean crust must have been much hotter
tion of pillow lavas and by the common parallelism than modern crust, and the ambient temperature
of downdip pillow elongations, stretching linea- in basal Archean crust may have approached
tions, and mineral lineations (e.g. Chown et al., 1000C, deep-crustal melt then being widespread
1992; Percival et al., 1996). In the Pilbara craton (Ridley, 1992) and the dry peridotite solidus
also, metamorphism of the stratiform rocks is having been crossed high in the subjacent upper
mostly of greenschist and subgreenschist facies, mantle (Thompson et al., 1995). This great con-
but contact metamorphism is less conspicuous, trast between Archean and Phanerozoic crust and
and granite/greenstone contacts commonly are upper mantle is reflected in major differences in
sheared; steep dips, tight folds, and strong foliation tectonic and magmatic processes.
occur where greenstone belts are narrow, but gen- The subuniform areal density of the late upper-
tler dips and low strains where belts are wide crustal batholiths over broad regions indicates that
(Hickman, 1983; Trendall, 1995). they were generated by regional sheetlike heating
Where deformation was relatively severe and of the lower crust and that the melts and partial
superimposed folds can be seen in outcrop, many melts segregated into diapirs as they coalesced and
authors have attempted to classify such folds into rose. The pattern is incompatible with local or
multiple sets, often as many as five, with the linear sources of magmas rising from the mantle.
implicit assumptions that synmetamorphic folding Where stratigraphic, structural, and geochrono-
is a process of tightening of bends, that superposit- logic studies are most complete, it is seen that the
ion requires successive episodes of bending in granites rose into what had previously been sheet-
different stress systems, that folds of similar geome- like stratigraphy in the upper crust, and that the
try are correlative, and that multiple unrelated youngest volcanic rocks of the greenstone-belt
episodes of deformation are required to generate synforms often are correlative with the late batho-
the observed successions. That these assumptions liths. Although complex earlier deformation has
commonly are false, and that synmetamorphic been widely inferred where constraints are loose,
folding (especially where, as is the common case, the general lack of such inferred deformation
folds are more or less coaxial and metamorphically where constraints are tight is powerful evidence
isofacial) typically represents combined pure and against such deformation as a common feature.
simple shear wherein folds record primarily veloc- Petrology of the granites requires deep-crustal
ity variations rather than tightened bends, is shown partial melting. The likely cause of the partial
in the many places where 'polyphase' folds are melting required to mobilize the regional arrays of
displayed within thin units with planar outer huge, subsynchronous diapiric batholiths is radio-
boundaries. I do not here evaluate papers in which genic heat that accumulated after magmatism and
protracted and complex deformation histories have sedimentation had suitably thickened the crust
been deduced on the basis of superposed folding. (Ridley, 1992).
Structural patterns in mid- and lower-crustal The felsic melts scavenged the radioactive ele-
rocks are strikingly different and require decou- ments responsible for the melting, so the late
piing between upper and middle crust diapirism effected an enormous transfer of radioac-
(Section 3.1.13). tive isotopes, and of contained heat, from the
lower to the upper crust within a short period of
3.1.10. Archean crustal heat and cratonization time in each region, and greatly increased the
Continental crust is heated by conductive and petrologic stratification of the crust. This transfer
advective (magmatic) transfer of heat upward from allowed the lower crust and subjacent mantle to
W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 161

cool markedly below prior temperatures and thus established by late diapirism and shortening,
stabilized cratons and stiffened lithosphere regardless of how truly regional the pre-diapiric
(Ridley, 1992). sections may prove to be.
The middle and lower crust were decoupled
3.1.11. Structural trends in granite-and-greenstone from the upper crust and deformed very differently
terrains (Section 3.1.13). The external cause of the shorten-
The regional fabric of Archean granite-and- ing, and its relationship to mantle processes and
greenstone terrains is defined by the rough orienta- kinematics, is unknown--but it did not represent
tion of elliptical diapiric batholiths and by the rigid-plate tectonics.
anastomosing trends of the synformal belts of
volcanic and sedimentary deformed between them. 3.1.12. Archean gneiss terrains
These trends generally record the final cratoniza- Some Archean gneiss complexes are the base-
tion of a region and require a combination of ments beneath supracrustal sections, as discussed
density-driven diapiric rise of batholiths and of in prior sections, and others are the deeper-crustal
more or less synchronous regional horizontal equivalents of nearby upper-crustal assemblages.
shortening across strike and(?) extension along Some upper-crustal granite-and-greenstone ter-
strike. This synchroneity, and the semiconstant rains give way along or across strike, where erosion
structural level and wavelength of diapirism and has cut obliquely deeper into the crust, to gneissic
upright deformation across broad tracts, indicate domains, and these often contain rocks older than,
the upper crust to have been effectively floating on as well as equivalent to, the upper-crustal assem-
deeper crust, and both to have been very weak blages (e.g. Davis et al., 1995). The ancient gneisses
and, presumably, partly molten. The shortening generally have not been mapped or characterized
was transmitted through the upper crust as a series against adjacent younger gneisses, having been
of diapir-controlled waveforms of semiconstant recognized primarily by spot determinations of
dimensions. The deformation represented bulk- ancient zircons. The gneiss complexes typically are
pure-shear cross-strike shortening and(?) along- in amphibolite facies, but broad tracts are in
strike extension of the decoupled upper crust, for orthopyroxene-granulite facies recording less
the resulting structures are dominantly upright, hydrous crystallization and higher temperatures
without the systematic vergences that would be than those typical of post-Archean middle crust
produced by simple shear, and without the thrust (e.g. Pan et al., 1994; Percival et al., 1994).
faults which would have been required by shorten- Where broad belts of metasedimentary rocks
ing of a rigid crust. Archean upper crust was in intervene between granite-and-greenstone terrains,
this phase incapable of supporting high topo- they tend to have medial tracts of gneisses and
graphic loads and of transmitting simple shear. anatectic micaceous granites, typically more pot-
Structures commonly are broadly subparallel assic and aluminous than the characteristically
across any one remnant craton, but in the Superior tonalitic gneisses of the other assemblages of
craton regional structures swing from the eastward gneisses (Percival, 1989).
trend dominant elsewhere to northward in the The best-studied tract of Archean gneisses of
northeast part of the craton (Percival et al., 1994). widely varying ages, recorded by near-concordia
The granite-and-greenstone trends vary in age ion-probe U-Pb zircon ages scattering from 3.9 to
from craton to craton from about 3.5 to 2.6 Ga 2.5 Ga, is in the 100x200 km Nuuk region of
but were established late in the histories of magma- southwest Greenland (McGregor et al., 1991;
tism, sedimentation, and deformation of their Friend et al., 1996; Nutman et al., 1996). The
respective regions. dominant rocks are tonalitic gneisses and migmat-
Broad, integrated field and dating studies are ites of amphibolite and orthopyroxene-granulite
still few, but in the best-constrained examples, the facies, most of them complexly polycyclic
stratigraphy of pre-diapiric volcanic and sedi- (McGregor, 1993). Gneisses and granites of about
mentary rocks shows no correlation with the trends 2.8-2.7Ga are widespread. In a well-sampled
162 W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143 179

medial tract about 30 km wide, gneisses with zir- the mid-crustal rocks of the Kapuskasing uplift of
cons yielding maximum ages of 3.9-3.6 Ga also Ontario documented subhorizontal late Archean
are abundant. Different spots on the same zircon extension parallel to the long dimension of the
grains, or on different grains from the same granite-and-greenstone terrain above. They
samples, can scatter more or less down concordia emphasized that this requires decoupling of the
as far as 2.5 Ga, showing protracted, or complexly middle from the upper crust. The extension was
multi-episodic, high-temperature history. The accomplished by bottom-to-the-west simple shear
sparse determinations made northwest of the combined with pure-shear flattening and boudi-
medial tract scatter back to about 3.2 Ga, whereas nage. Moser et al. inferred that the initially under-
the few determinations southeast of the medial lying basal crust in this sector flowed westward,
tract are within the range 2.9-2.7 Ga. The authors coalesced into larger masses, and sank into the
cited argued that the old ages in the well-sampled mantle, and thus that the exposed structure devel-
medial tract require that northwest, medial, and oped in response to deeper delamination. They
southeast tracts formed far apart and collided, suggested that water released by dehydration of
and were complexly interfolded together, when the sinking masses had risen into the remaining
intervening oceanic crust was subducted, shortly lower crust and enabled the late partial melting
before late regional granite formation and migmat- displayed there. The model is appealing.
itization at about 2.7 Ga. Their work indeed estab- Sawyer and Benn (1995) also recognized the
lishes the presence of a belt of polycyclic gneisses midcrustal lineation as in the transport direction,
that included ancient protoliths, but this in no way yet they rationalized from other small, outcrop-
requires any such plate-tectonic explanation. scale structures, without supporting evidence from
geologic-map patterns or from rock-assemblage
3.1.13. Uncoupling of upper crust from middle and relationships, that the regional structure is domi-
lower crust nated by folded megathrusts directed perpendicu-
Archean upper-crustal deformation was accom- lar to that transport-direction lineation and
plished primarily by gravitational body forces as involving both middle- and upper-crustal rocks.
low-density domiform batholiths rose through They pointed to no superposition of deep rocks
denser stratiform successions and shouldered them atop shallow rocks in support of this speculation.
aside into complex sinking synforms. The diapir- Lacroix and Sawyer (1995) assumed, in a neigh-
ism was accompanied by orthogonal horizontal boring area, that most surface geologic contacts
bulk-pure-shear shortening and(?) extension, the (which are steep), and nearly all middle and deep-
character of which indicates the upper crust to crustal reflections (which are inclined gently; see
have been effectively floating on deeper material. caveat in next paragraph) on a seismic-reflection
Late deformation of middle- and lower-crust profile, are thrust faults; their illustrations and
Archean assemblages as seen in outcrop is so their interpretations at all scales appear to me to
strikingly different from that of upper-crust assem- be but circular restatements of implausible
blages exposed along and across strike from them assumptions.
that decoupling is required. The simple dome-and- The middle and deep crust beneath Archean
syncline pattern is not recorded in the deeper upper-crustal assemblages commonly is displayed
rocks, and the steep stretching lineations are lack- on long-sweep seismic-reflection profiles as having
ing. A number of studies (e.g. in the Superior a pervasive subhorizontal or gently undulating
craton, Percival, 1989; Moser, 1994; Sawyer and fabric. Thus, seismic-reflection profiles across vari-
Benn, 1995) have demonstrated that, instead, ous parts of the broad Abitibi granite-and-green-
gently plunging stretching lineations trending sub- stone terrain typically show few apparent
parallel to the long axes of upper-crustal domiform reflections in the top 6-12 km of the crust: the
batholiths are typical. granites are acoustically transparent, and the vol-
The sophisticated structural and geochronologic canic rocks are too steep, or too lacking in imped-
study by Moser (1994) and Moser et al. (1996) in ance contrasts, to produce good reflectors
V~B. Hamilton / Preeambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 163

(Bellefleur et al., 1995; Jackson et al., 1995; Lacroix and its kin in many regions form basement upon
and Sawyer, 1995). Often present at 6-12 km is a which were erupted mafic and ultramafic volcanic
gently undulating reflector, which is continuous in rocks, or intrude such volcanic rocks, or are the
one sector for 90 km (Lacroix and Sawyer, 1995) oldest rocks known in the region. Dacite and
and perhaps images the zone of decoupling dis- rhyodacite, equivalent to tonalite and granodiorite
cussed next. Elsewhere, a single distinct reflector (but not to the generally high-water-pressure,
is not present, but instead the middle and deep hence midcrustal, trondhjemite) are abundant in
crust are displayed as many variably continuous supracrustal greenstone-belt assemblages.
to highly discontinuous reflectors with gentle Archean tonalites are characterized by steeply
apparent inclinations. This fabric may well be real, fractionated rare-earth patterns--the heavy
but a strong caveat must be kept in mind when elements are severely depleted--and the restite
interpreting such records. The common-depth- minerals that selectively retained most of the com-
point methodology of processing reflection data plementary heavy rare earths in the required pro-
strongly enhances any subhorizontal reflectivity portions must have included substantial garnet
actually present; comparison with superdeep dril- (Hanson, 1978; Martin, 1986; Rudnick and Taylor,
ling results shows that the strongest reflectors tend 1986; Rapp et al., 1991). This in turn requires a
to be fractures and minor shear zones rather than depth of partial melting greater than about 20 km
lithologic contrasts or foliation-induced anisot- if the restite was garnet amphibolite, 30 km if
ropy, and that actual moderate to steep dips are garnet-clinopyroxene granulite, and 40km if
completely masked (Harjes et al., 1997). Further, eclogite. Post-Archean tonalites show much less
subhorizontal pseudoreflectivity can be generated fractionation of the rare earths, and garnet may
from random noise as an artifact of processing, not be needed in their equilibration. The conclu-
the effect increasing with moveout (Levander and sion that Archean restites were more garnetiferous
Gibson, 1991) and hence being greatest in long- follows also from the negligible to positive Eu
sweep profiles. Out-of-section reflectors, even from anomalies in Archean tonalites as contrasted to
distant vertical dikes, or scattering artifacts from the negligible to negative anomalies in young ones
out-of-section point sources, can be recorded and (e.g. Gromet and Silver, 1987). This provides
mistaken for inclined in-section events. Crooked another contrast between Archean magmatic rocks
traverses provide still another family of problems and the modern ones which they resemble
for interpretation. Sum these and other complexi- superfcially.
ties, and the two directions of superimposed deep- Direct derivation of tonalite from peridotitic
crustal shortening and thrusting deduced by mantle is precluded, for mantle peridotite cannot
Bellefleur et al. (1997) by 'assuming a connection yield tonalitic melt under any mantle conditions
between reflectivity and strain produced by tec- (Wyllie et al., 1997); nor can fractionation of
tonic processes' in a Superior traverse can only be basaltic melt controlled by olivine and pyroxene
viewed as tenuous. produce tonalite. Crustal-pressure fractionation of
hydrous basaltic melt can, however, yield tonalitic
3.1.14. Origin of Archean tonalite melt (Carroll and Wyllie, 1990). The huge volume
Gneissic and migmatitic tonalite, trondhjemite of Archean tonalite, the relative scarcity of diorite
and granodiorite--'gray gneisses,' or 'TTG and andesite, and the lack of evidence for hydrous
suite'--dominate much Archean middle crust and mafic magmatism in such forms as hornblende
are widespread in variably remobilized form in gabbro, are difficult to explain by such fraction-
late diapiric upper-crust batholiths. These gneisses ation on an intra-crustal scale. Fractionation of
commonly are complexly migmatitic and enclose hydrous basaltic melt on a vast, magma-ocean
abundant amphibolite, or garnet amphibolite scale, as proposed by Ridley and Kramers (1990),
where recording depths greater than about 20 km, the tonalite in such a case representing most of
or relics of garnet-clinopyroxene granulites where the crust, would not meet those objections. Perhaps
recording depths on the order of 30 km. Tonalite early-Earth tonalites can be explained in such
164 14LB. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143 179

terms, the necessary water perhaps having been residence time, explanations which, unlike direct
added to the parental basaltic melt from a very derivation, are compatible with experimental data.
dense, pre-water-ocean hydrous atmosphere. Longer crustal-residence times for sources of many
Fractionation of mantle-derived deep-crustal bas- other Archean felsic-rock suites are shown by
altic melt contaminated by assimilation of hydrous appropriate divergences of the isotope systematics
crustal rocks might also be a viable mechanism from 'mantle' signatures. The heat needed for the
(Stem et al., 1994). second-stage partial melting presumably repre-
Most Archean tonalites span the same age range sented in part the high ambient and radiogenic
as do the low-water-content basalts and komatiites temperatures of Archean crust and mantle, and
and the other rocks of the granite-and-greenstone perhaps in part crustal underplating by mafic and
assemblage. The origin of these tonalites that ultramafic melts rising from the mantle.
accords with experimental data is in intracrustal The voluminous tonalites and allied rocks of
melting as the second part of a two-stage process Archean crust require, in the terms discussed here,
[as Wyllie et al. (1997) and many others have the formation of even greater volumes of dense,
emphasized]. Basaltic melts of mantle origin rose restitic products of partial melting of amphibolite.
into the crust and there were hydrated and meta- An appropriate volume of the dense restites cannot
morphosed to amphibolite (perhaps via greenstone be accounted for in exposed or seismically defined
and greenschist), and the amphibolites were subse- Archean crust, so it follows that most of the
quently heated in the stability fields of high-tem- missing restite is in the mantle, either as the upper
perature garnetiferous rocks. Many experimenters part of the preserved lithosphere, or as dense
have shown that when amphibolite (hornblende- material delaminated and sunk into the mantle.
plagioclase rock of approximately basaltic bulk Wolf and Wyllie (1993) calculated high densities
composition) is heated, over a broad range of for the garnet-rich restites, and they, like Rudnick
pressure and temperature, the hornblende dissoci- and Taylor (1986) and others, advocated such
ates and releases water which combines with other delamination.
components to produce tonalitic melt, leaving a
residue of clinopyroxene plus other minerals at 3.1.15. Back-arc features
P < 8 - 1 0 kbar, and of garnet, clinopyroxene, and Modern oceanic back-arc basins open by combi-
other minerals at greater pressure (Wyllie et al., nations of sea-floor spreading and of arc migration
1997). This dissociation can occur at either deep- accompanying rapid rollback of hinges of subduct-
crustal or uppermost-mantle conditions. Partial ing plates. The presence of relics of the floors of
melting of amphibolite in the uppermost-mantle such basins in Archean greenschist belts has been
stability field of high-T eclogite can yield volumi- postulated by a few geologists; the refutations
nous tonalitic melt at high temperature with a made previously of oceanic-crust conjectures apply
residue of such eclogite (Rapp et al., 1991), equally here.There is no suggestion in the Archean
although tonalitic melt would lose its character if of such continental back-arc features as foreland
it reacted with olivine-bearing mantle rocks during thrust belts.
subsequent rise.
When the two stages follow within a relatively 3.1.16. Uncompleted granite-and-greenstone
short period, such as 200 million years, the second- terrains? The Witwatersrand and Hamersley
stage silicic melts will bear a 'mantle' signature in successions
isotopes of Nd, Pb and Sr. Many felsic Archean The Kaapvaal craton of South Africa and
plutonic and volcanic rocks indeed have mantle- Pilbara craton of Western Australia were craton-
like proportions of isotopes of those elements, but ized by about 3.0 Ga, and sequences more than
the citation of such proportions as evidence for 10 km thick of mafic and felsic volcanic rocks and
direct mantle derivation of the m a ~ a s (e.g. Barrie clastic and chemical sedimentary rocks were depos-
and Shirey, 1991; Vervoort et al., 1994) is not a ited, with regional stratigraphic continuity, across
valid argument against two-stage, short-crustal- them in late Archean time. The African succession
IV.B. Hamilton / PrecambrianResearch 91 (1998) 143-179 165

is preserved in the Witwatersrand basin and outli- sphere is subducted, the stratal wedge is driven as
ers, the Australian in the Hamersley basin and a tectonically thickened wedge of imbricate thrusts
outliers. The two cratons and these overlying suc- onto the continent on which it was deposited. Or
cessions may have been contiguous in Archean the rifted margin can become an active one as
time. No Archean granites cut the young succes- subduction is initiated beneath it and the suite of
sions, but some Australian outliers show slight subduction--system features is printed across it,
deformation into gentle synforms formed between and this newly active margin can hit either another
the terminal slight uplifts of the older diapiric active margin or another rifted margin.
granites (Hickman, 1983). The possible permutations are many, but the
Rock types in these regionally continuous suc- end result of rifting and aggregation is a juxtaposi-
cessions are reminiscent of the deformed succes- tion, across a suture system, of complexes diversely
sions seen in Archean greenstone belts, although recording subduction, of continental masses of
komatiites and their kin are lacking. If these late contrasting pre-rift histories and geometry.
Archean post-cratonization sequences indeed are Examples are abundant in orogenic systems youn-
similar to those that formed the greenstone belts, ger than about 2.0 Ga around the world. For
then perhaps they represent all but the late-stage example, Archean continental crust in North
granitic history of another granite-and-greenstone America occurs as disparate fragments truncated
terrain. Perhaps because the basement beneath the by early Proterozoic rifts, in part preserving early
late sequences had already been inverted and stabi- Proterozoic rifted-margin stratal wedges, and jux-
lized by the regional rise of diapiric granites, such taposed by younger early Proterozoic suture com-
granites could not again form in the lower crust plexes (Helmstaedt and Scott, 1992; Hoffman,
and rise through the sequences. 1988).

3.2. Divergent-plate systems 3.2.2. Lack o f evidence for Archean rifting and
aggregation
3.2.1. Rifting and aggregation Archean rifts and sutures have been postulated
The splitting of continents and separation of on the basis of superposed volcanic or sedimentary
their fragments as ocean basins opened between rocks thought to represent contrasted tectonic
them--dispersive plate tectonics--is clearly shown settings (Section 3.1.8) but have not been demon-
by post-2-Ga geology. Some rifts are irregularly strated by appropriate structures and associations.
subparallel to pre-existing continental orogenic Broadly subparallel structures characterize
trends but many rifts cut directly or irregularly entire Archean cratons, which are themselves rem-
across such trends. Rifted margins consist of tec- nants separated by post-Archean rifting and rota-
tonically thinned continental crust and thick new tion. The initial domains must have been larger
gabbroic and basaltic crust. Thinning and rift than these remnants. Nowhere, to my knowledge,
magmatism open thermal windows into the mantle has Archean rifting across such trends, accompa-
and steepen geothermal gradients. As the rift crust nied by major extensional structures or appropriate
subsequently cools toward ambient geotherms its post-cratonization sedimentary packages, been
upper surface subsides and is covered by an ocean- demonstrated.
ward-thickening stratal wedge, the distal, deepwa- The youngest strata preserved in the complex
ter equivalent of which laps far out upon new and faulted medial synclines of the Barberton
oceanic crust. When such a rifted margin later greenstone belt of South Africa comprise a fining-
collides with an advancing overriding plate-- upward sequence of continental and shallow water
which can be a simple Andean continental plate conglomerates and quartz arenites which discon-
or island-arc plate with more ocean behind it, or formably to unconformably overlie felsic volcanic
an already aggregated composite of island arcs, rocks and turbiditic and other sedimentary rocks,
plateaus, and small continents backed by either beneath which are mafic and ultramafic lavas. The
ocean or continent---as intervening oceanic litho- upper sedimentary sequence was interpreted by
166 V~B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143 179

Eriksson (1982) to have formed as a rifted-margin for megathrusting. There is nothing 'oceanic' about
coastal plain and continental shelf, and by the Limpopo belt, and there is no evidence for
Heubeck and Lowe (1994) to have formed in local truncation of northern or southern granite-and-
basins bounded by normal faults. Numerous zircon greenstone terrains by rifting, nor for rotation of
U Pb dates from volcanic rocks and from sur- them prior to hypothetical suturing, nor for juxta-
rounding pre-belt tonalitic basement and post-belt positions of disjunct assemblages, nor for the
granites show the entire volcanic and sedimentary formation and deformation of trailing-edge stratal
section to span the approximate period wedges. Dating in the region was long obfuscated
3.48-3.15 Ga and, integrated with structural infor- by misplaced reliance on whole-rock Rb-Sr pseu-
mation, show the main synformal deformation of dochrons as indicating ages (cf. Beakhouse et al.,
the belt to have occurred in a brief period concur- 1988) and by single-mineral Rb-Sr analyses calcu-
rent with, and ending shortly after, deposition of lated as ages by assuming initial ratios of
the young quartzose strata (e.g. Kamo and Davis, STSr/S6Sr, which amount to assuming the ages.
1994). The young clastic strata thus apparently Recent, reliable U-Pb zircon dates show the granu-
formed in basins produced by early cross-belt lite-facies metamorphism to be of early Proterozoic
shortening, not by extension as required by rifted- age (Jaeckel et al., 1997). The Limpopo belt pres-
margin explanations. Similar inferences can be ents a problem in differential uplift rather than in
made for young sedimentary rocks in Canadian rifting and suturing; and that uplift was of early
Archean cratons. Proterozoic, not Archean, age.
Two broad tracts of upper- and middle-crust
granite-and-greenstone assemblages are separated
by a belt, 200 km wide, in Zimbabwe, Botswana, 4. Archean crust, mantle and heat
and South Africa, of mostly granulitic rocks, com-
monly termed the Limpopo Mobile Belt, which Something like half of the present mass of
has been widely regarded as a late Archean rift continental crust was produced from the mantle
and suture between older Archean Kaapvaal and during Archean time (Rudnick, 1995). As the
Zimbabwe continental plates (Barton, 1983; degree of recycling of continental crust, and of its
Roering et al., 1992; Treloar et al., 1992; de Wit sedimentary derivatives, into the mantle by sub-
et al., 1992; van Reenen et al., 1995). I read the duction and by crustal delamination cannot yet be
array as, instead, a single Archean craton with a quantified through time, it is uncertain whether
medial Proterozoic uplift of lower-crustal rocks, the amount of continental crust has increased,
and as lacking a rift and suture of any age. The decreased, or been approximately constant,
dominant strike in all three terrains is east-north- through geologic time, and whether mantle hetero-
eastward (Watkeys, 1983), northern and southern geneity has decreased or (more likely) increased
granite-and-greenstone terrains are similar, and no (Anderson, 1989; Armstrong, 1991; Bowring and
major dislocations have been demonstrated. Both Housh, 1995; Rudnick, 1995).
margins of the granulite belt represent primarily
increasing pressure and temperature both of meta- 4.1. Lower continental crust
morphism and of crystallization of granites, with-
out abrupt changes in protoliths, and hence Obliquely eroded sections through much of the
primarily increasing depth of exposure (van crust in Archean terrains show a general downward
Reenen et al., 1995; Rollinson and Blenkinsop, progression from low-grade rocks, of lower
1995). Strong to weak retrograde foliation, indica- greenschist or amphibolite facies, and high-level
tive of minor to moderate strain, dips mostly granites in the upper crust through gneisses and
steeply inward, and has downdip stretching linea- migmatites of upper amphibolite facies, and in
tions, on both sides of the granulite belt (Mkweli some regions orthopyroxene granulites, in the
et al., 1995; van Reenen et al., 1995; Rollinson middle crust to mixed mafic to felsic rocks in
and Blenkinsop, 1995), and there is no evidence garnet-amphibolite and granulite facies in the
W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 167

upper part of the lower crust (e.g. Percival et al., alkaline mafic igneous rocks, show that Archean
1992). The Proterozoic ramp uplift of Wawa basal crust is quite mafic. Deep-crustal (and upper-
gneisses and Kapuskasing granulites in Ontario most mantle?) xenoliths in kimberlites in the
displays a well-documented example through this Kaapvaal craton are mafic plagioclase-bearing
progression (Moser, 1994; Percival and West, and plagioclase-free garnet-pyroxene granulites
1994). Upper-crustal steep-dipping greenstones (Pearson et al., 1995). Archean lower-crustal xeno-
and steep-sided granites are seen in this oblique liths studied from Eocene lamprophyres in
crustal section to give way downward to undulat- Montana and Alberta are dominantly marie granu-
ing to steeply domiformal amphibolite-facies mafic litic cumulates (Collerson et al., 1989). Xenoliths
gneiss, migmatite, and concordant sheets of ton- of upper-crustal tonalite in those lamprophyres
alite, granodiorite, and quartz monzonite. This yield Archean zircon U-Pb ages (Davis and
assemblage in turn gives way downward to layered Berman, 1995). Ages of cores of zircons in a felsic
mafic and tonalitic rocks in granulite, garnet-am- granulite xenolith from the upper part of the lower
phibolite, and upper amphibolite facies, and subor- crust scatter from about 2500 to 3000 Ma, whereas
dinate ultramafic and anorthositic rocks, which overgrowth ages are about 1760-2375 Ma
before thrust ramping mostly were subhorizontal. (Collerson et al., 1993). In two high-pressure gran-
Each of these three descending assemblages charac- ulites from the still deeper crust, ages of zircon
terizes a depth section 10 km or so thick. The cores, or of uniform grains of zircon, range from
significance of mid-crustal structure there is dis- about 1715 to 1815 Ma, with one discordant age
cussed in Section4.2. Krogh (1993) found that of about 2945 Ma; overgrowth ages range from
U-Pb zircon ages of granulites in the upper part about 1695 to 1780 Ma (Davis and Berman, 1995).
of the lower crust in the uplift are tens of millions The authors cited attributed this downward-
of years younger than the youngest upper-crustal younging trend to Proterozoic reheating of
magmatism nearby, noted that similar age discrep- Archean crust, but an alternative explanation is
ancies characterize other Canadian Archean gran- that the deep crust did not cool sufficiently to
ulites, and suggested that the granulites were prevent lead loss from zircon until early
produced by late magrnatic underplating of the Proterozoic time.
crust; but slow loss of residual heat in the deep Evaluation is needed of the petrologic evolution
crust might provide an alternative explanation. of the lower crust in terms of mobilization and
Basal Archean crust has nowhere been recog- migration of the felsic melts that produced the
nized in outcrop, whereas basal crust and upper- widespread late domiform batholiths of the upper
most mantle of Phanerozoic age are exposed in crust. The partial melting of the lower crust that
obliquely eroded upramped sections in collision produced the granitic magmas is attributed
zones in several parts of the world. In such sections, (Section 3.1.10) to the generation of radiogenic
the basal crust consists of great layered igneous heat, at rates two or three times as fast in Archean
and meta-igneous complexes of marie rocks, which time as now, in the crust.
generally become increasingly rich downward in
garnet, both igneous and metamorphic, and the 4.2. Crustal delamination
geophysical Mohorovi~id discontinuity is seen to
be present within the layered complexes well above Seismic-velocity structure can be interpreted to
residual mantle rocks (Hamilton, 1989, 1995; show the present lower part of the lower crust of
Percival et al., 1992). Underplating of continental Archean terrains to be less dense on average than
crust by voluminous marie magmas is indicated. that of Proterozoic and Phanerozoic terrains, and
Seismic-velocity structure and study of xenoliths if this is correct then either the uppermost mantle
yield the same conclusion (Christensen and includes high-density petrologic crust, or much
Mooney, 1995; Rudnick and Fountain, 1995). Archean basal crust was delaminated or dripped
The few studies of xenoliths from the deep crust from higher crust and sank into the mantle during
beneath Archean cratons, found in kimberlites and Archean time (Christensen and Mooney, 1995;
168 W.B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

Rudnick and Fountain, 1995; Sections 3.1.13 and several thousand cubic kilometers (Section 3.1.4).
3.1.14), or both. (Others see a more normal veloc- Much debate centers on the depths and degrees of
ity structure in Archean crust; thus, Grandjean melting and on the mode of rise to the surface of
et al. (1995) deduced a standard-thickness lower the ultramafic melts (e.g. Cattell and Taylor, 1990;
crust, from 30 to 40 km in depth, with Vp about Herzberg, 1992; Nisbet et al., 1993; Xie and
6.9-7.3 km/s.) Much fractionation of crust, and Kerrich, 1994). Most investigators argue for high
much mixing into the mantle of mafic materials, degrees of partial melting in a late Archean upper
may have been achieved by delamination of dense mantle 200 or even 300C hotter than that of the
mafic rocks. Only basalt and komatiite magmas present. Problems with the common attribution of
likely reached the Archean crust as primary melts such temperatures to 'plumes' are noted in
from the mantle; as the preserved crust is interme- Section 4.8.
diate in bulk composition, much of the comple- Thermal erosion by extremely hot ultramafic
mentary mafic and ultramafic deep-crustal material lavas of their substrates is shown both by contact
must have been returned to the mantle. Much features and by contamination of the lavas
ultramafic magma was erupted through Archean (Perring et al., 1996). The proportion of ultramafic
continental crust, but density considerations make rocks in the final assemblages is probably much
it likely that much more was underplated at the smaller than the initial magmatic proportion that
base of the continent. Delaminated and sunken left the mantle because of widespread and severe
underplated crust and cogenetic uppermost mantle contamination. Komatiitic basalts may have
probably included much ultramafic material as formed mostly by assimilation of continental crust
well as mafic igneous rocks and dense restites in rising ultramafic melts (Cattell and Taylor, 1990;
complementary to crustally generated melts. Mid- Morris, 1993).
crust structural evidence compatible with delami-
nation was noted in Section 3.1.13. In a Superior 4.4. Archean mantle geotherms
seismic-refraction profile, the ImP phase reflected
from the base of the crust was interpreted to Data obtained from mantle xenoliths in
require the Mohorovi6i6 discontinuity to be a Proterozoic and Phanerozoic kimberlites erupted
diffuse boundary (Winardhi and Mereu, 1997). through Archean cratons have been cited widely
The apparent sub-Moho inclined reflector as indicative of an Archean mantle as cool as that
imaged by Calvert et al. (1995) and Bellefleur et al. of the present, and that presumption in turn has
(1995, 1997) perhaps is a sheet of delaminated been cited in support of the assumption that
lower crust arrested in its sinking into the mantle. Archean crustal and upper mantle processes were
Delamination presumably was much more like modern ones. As a hotter Archean mantle is,
important during Archean than during younger in fact, required by the greater abundance of
time because the Archean mantle was markedly radioactive elements in Archean time and by the
hotter. greater content of retained early Earth heat, which
together indicate upper-mantle temperatures some-
4.3. Komatiite and other ultramafic rocks thing like 200C above modern ones (Schubert
et al., 1980), and by the abundance of Archean
Many Archean greenstone terrains contain volu- ultramafic lavas indicative of a similarly hotter
minous komatiite, and other ultramafic lavas and mantle, evaluation of the xenolith data is in order.
sills, crystallized from extremely low-viscosity The dominant mantle xenoliths erupted through
melts with MgO contents as high as 29% by weight, the Archean crust of southern Africa are garnet
and hence at eruption temperatures as high as lherzolites consisting of magnesian olivine, ensta-
about 1600C, about 200C higher than the rare tite, and much-subordinate diopside and garnet.
most-magnesian Phanerozoic lavas (Nisbet et al., This mineralogy is broadly compatible with geo-
1993; Abbott et al., 1994). Individual eruptions of thermal gradients like modern ones, with allow-
Archean ultramafic complexes may have reached ance for perturbation by rising kimberlite magmas
W..B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 169

(Boyd, 1987). Many investigators have assumed underlain by mantle of relatively high velocity to
from this that Archean continental upper mantle depths as great as 250 km. Possible explanations
was little if any hotter than modern mantle for this distinctive mantle, which was not necessar-
(e.g. Boyd, 1987; Ballard and Pollack, 1988; ily formed at the time of the ancient crust above,
Richardson, 1990). The problem at issue, however, were discussed by Polet and Anderson (1995).
regards the thermal gradient in Archean time, and
hence the mineralogy as it then existed, and not 4.5. Archean oceanic crust?
the mineralogy as sampled in much younger geo-
logic time. Various dating methods demonstrate No oceanic crust is present within the Archean
that the xenoliths contain Archean isotopic compo- cratons. Perhaps Archean oceanic crust neverthe-
nents but do not date the final mineral assemblages less was widespread elsewhere, and was subse-
as older than the enclosing kimberlites, so other quently entirely recycled back into the mantle by
criteria must be used. subduction or other processes. Any such crust
The apparent resolution of the problem is that likely was much thicker, had a much larger propor-
the sampled low-temperature mineralogy was tion of ultramafic igneous rocks, and arguably was
inverted from high-temperature assemblages. more subductable, than modern oceanic crust
Textures and compositions, and experimental data, (Nisbet and Fowler, 1983).
indicate that the studied southern African lherzol- It is alternatively possible, and to me appears
ites were inverted from harzburgites crystallized at more likely, that the Archean Earth, like modern
temperatures near the dry peridotite solidus, the Venus, had unimodal topography and crustal
final low-temperature garnet and pyroxene having structure. In this case, the large proportion of
exsolved from initial high-temperature orthopy- Archean crust which was not recycled into younger
roxene rich in Ca and A1 (Cox et al., 1987; crust must have been recycled into the mantle.
Herzberg, 1993).
Varied eclogitic rocks are a common component 4.6. Juvenile continental crust
of mantle sampled by kimberlites in Archean cra-
tons and at least many of these also record early Archean cratons mostly represent growth by
temperatures much higher than those of equilibra- fundamentally basaltic and ultramafic magmatism,
tion of the kimberlite-sampled xenoliths. The with great recycling and upward migration of
eclogites have compositions that are, broadly, bas- components taking place via partial remelting of
altic to melabasaltic. The protoliths of their mantle hydrated crustal materials, and with complemen-
sources have been variously interpreted as sub- tary recycling and downward migration of dense
ducted oceanic crust (Gurney, 1991; Helmstaedt restites with or without delamination. Most of the
and Schulze, 1989; Helmstaedt and Gurney, 1995; rocks exposed in each preserved craton formed
MacGregor and Manton, 1986), as delaminated within a single cycle, 100 million years or so long,
and sunken crustal cumulates or restites (e.g. of such evolution although an uncompleted second
Ireland et al., 1994), and as mantle igneous rocks. cycle may have followed 300 million years or so
Strong evidence for the origin of at least some of after the major cycle in the two oldest preserved
the eclogites as igneous rocks crystallized within cratons. Still older silicic crust is discontinuously
the mantle at temperatures much above modern present beneath and within products of each major
ones comes, again, from study of exsolved mineral craton-forming cycle, and its widespread presence
phases. Many of the eclogites contain kyanite and beyond its outcrop areas is shown by evolved
garnet exsolved from clinopyroxene, the recon- isotope systematics and by old inherited zircons in
structed initial composition of which apparently younger crustal-melt or crustally contaminated
requires crystallization from a melt deeper than rocks. Other domains interspersed with or adjacent
100 km (Smyth et al., 1989). to such old-crust domains lack such indicators of
The Archean and early Proterozoic portions of old crust and hence provide evidence for juvenile
some, but not all, Precambrian shields are crust, wherein all crustal recycling was accom-
170 bid B. Hamilton/Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179

plished within a relatively short period after the form, an irregular half or more of the area of
oldest preserved products of magmatism from the those terrains had such basement.
mantle (e.g. Davis et al., 1988, 1996).
4.8. Mantle temperature variations, and "plumes'
4. 7. Pre-granite-and-greenstone crust
Archean tectonics and magmatism are products
Continental crust, in the form of mostly tonalitic of a mantle much hotter than the modern one.
migmatites, was distributed widely before the main The effects of greater heat were felt at different
granite-and-greenstone cycle recorded in each pre- times in different craton remnants in our small
served cratonic mass, and is seen in many areas to sample of Archean crust. Although the tectono-
form basement upon which the oldest preserved magmatic successions were similar, several craton
volcanic rocks were deposited. The oldest recog- remnants went through their major evolution
nized components of some of these basement several hundred million years before others.
gneisses are no older than granite-and-greenstone Obviously the Archean Earth did not evolve with
terrains elsewhere, whereas the oldest zircons of radial uniformity.
others, which are complexly polycyclic, go back to The concept of mantle plumes has become
3.9 4.0 Ga. If there were also pre-4.0 Ga compo- widely accepted in recent years and a voluminous
nents in those migmatites, then their zircons were, literature elaborates their hypothetical properties
insofar as yet tested, entirely reset or absorbed. and effects. Hot mantle is pictured as piped upward
The final stages of each of these ancient migmatites from the core-mantle boundary and spreading or
record hydrous, low-pressure partial melting, but channeling beneath the crust. The notion was
the oldest protoliths recycled into the migmatites devised to explain the 'hot spot' time-distance
may or may not have been similarly hydrous. relationships of, particularly, the Hawaiian-
Unpreserved rocks as old as 4.2 Ga are represented Emperor seamount chain, and has since been
by clastic zircons in much younger quartzites. broadened by proponents to account for practi-
Large bolides churned the Earth's surface until cally any magmatism, uplift, or rifting, on any
almost 3.8 Ga, their flux probably diminishing scale or shape or progression in either space or
with time. Impact melting and brecciation must time, not obviously related to two-dimensional
have profoundly complicated the effects of endo- subduction and seafloor spreading. The volumi-
genic tectonic and magmatic processes. For the nous literature on hypothetical plumes is notable
endogenic part, I picture, vaguely, a global magma for its ingenuity in the near-total absence of
ocean early on, its light fractionates (perhaps constraints.
tonalitic: Ridley and Kramers, 1990) becoming Plumes nevertheless probably do not exist in the
progressively more continuous as convection modern Earth. Upper-mantle temperatures are
became less vigorous; and then a gradual change shown by high-resolution seismic tomography to
to dominantly basaltic magmatism, erupted into vary much around the Earth (Anderson et al.,
and through the growing crust. The tremendous 1992). 'Hotspots' occur mostly above broad areas
superimposed effects of impacts included not only of low-velocity upper mantle but are not associated
direct remelting, excavation, and dispersal, but with the hottest or central parts of those areas,
also the indirect complications by impact-changed nor do those low-velocity anomalies extend deep
vertical and lateral geothermal gradients. Stable into the mantle. 'Hotspots may not be narrow
greenstone sections could not form anywhere until pipelike features but rather the focused effect of
after the bolide flux subsided. upwelling triggered from above by extensional
Was there a globe-girdling, or at least continen- strains or discontinuities in the lithosphere' (op.
tal-scale, tonalitic basement? The spotty evidence cit., p. 1647). Thermal anomalies associated with
of xenocrystic zircons and isotope systematics of spreading ridges also are largely limited to the
volcanic rocks is suggestive that by the time the upper mantle: ridges form where plates pull apart,
preserved granite-and-greenstone terrains began to not where great convective upwellings occur, and
I4( B. Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 171

necessarily migrate independent of the deep mantle an extreme plate reorganization compatible with
(Anderson et al., 1992). Lateral temperature gradi- no other type of evidence. Uninterrupted spreading
ents, particularly near boundaries between thick of the vast Pacific plate is shown by the smooth
and thin lithosphere, control major magmatic progression of its magnetic-anomaly stripes, from
effects both on the continents and in the oceans the North Pacific to the Southern Ocean, through-
(Anderson et al., 1992; King and Anderson, 1995). out the early Tertiary (e.g. Atwater and
Deeper mantle heat distribution also is widely Severinghaus, 1989; Atwater emphasized to me the
variable and reflects where plates have been in the importance of this relationship). Spreading, sub-
past more than where they are now. Tomography duction, and tectonism of course were occurring
gives no support for the popular concept of elsewhere at this time, but no great, abrupt global
'plumes' rising from the base of the mantle, and changes took place near 42 Ma.
geochemical, noble-gas, and petrogenetic argu- Megaplumes of Proterozoic age are widely
ments presented for the existence of plumes are rationalized to have produced the large circular
invalid (Anderson, in press). structures, 'coronae' and related features which
Wolfe et al. (1997) presented a seismic model in saturate most uplands of Venus, and vast basalt
support of a plume under Iceland, but the data outpourings are widely considered to have pro-
are equally satisfied by a shallow magma chamber duced the intervening plains. There certainly are
of limited vertical extent. Their faulty analysis is large volcanic edifices on Venus, but the magmatic
based on density of retarded-wave raypaths interpretations of plains and circle-saturated
recorded in small Iceland, not on tomographic uplands have not in my view been proved. My
crossing of raypaths such as could constrain 3D own analysis (Hamilton, 1993) of Magellan radar
structure. Their hypothetical downward-widening imagery, including stereoscopic images in some
plume, cut off arbitrarily at 400 kin, is merely the areas, and of the data from landers on Venutian
envelope of abundant steeply-rising teleseismic ray- plains, led me to infer that the old circular struc-
paths. Actual tomographic resolution is limited to tures may be the roots of impact structures (hence
a small upper-mantle volume wherein recorded presumably mostly older than 3.8 Ga), deeply
teleseismic rays cross, and in the rest of the raypath eroded by wind, and that the plains may be
envelope there is no resolution of the depth of the primarily products of eolian deposition.
retarding mass and the method used 'smears' the Archean plumes often have been postulated to
delay down to the 400-km limit of the analysis. explain the high mantle temperatures needed to
The trend to zero retardation at the margins and generate ultramafic lavas in terms of transient
top of the model is an artifact of an algorithm perturbations requiring massive transfer of heat
which forces values to zero where density of upwards in material from a deep source. Such
recorded waves, regardless of retardation, is low, hypothetical plumes would have needed heads the
as it necessarily is around the perimeter of the size of the cratons-to-be, which were larger by
island. unknown amounts than the preserved remnants,
Nor are mantle-fixed plumes required by island and to have had two or more abrupt, coextensive
chains. The archetypical chain, widely cited as upwellings beneath most cratons. Aficionados have
requiring a mantle-fixed plume, is the Hawaiian- not attempted more specific plume-tectonomag-
Emperor volcanic ridge, almost 6000 km long, matic explanations for Archean terrains, but given
whereon age of volcanism increases with distance the purported ability of modern plumes to account
from the active southeast end at a general rate of for whatever is observed such explanations are to
about 8 or 9 cm/a (Clague and Dalrymple, 1989). be expected in future.
The abrupt 120 bend, from west-northwestward My own preference is for explanations in terms
to northward, at 42 or 43 Ma in the middle of the of lateral, lithosphere-controlled variations in
chain, is incompatible with plume theory, which temperature, akin to explanations favored by
can explain this bend only by an abrupt 60 change Anderson and his colleagues in many papers,
in the direction of motion of the huge Pacific plate, including those just cited.
172 I,EIR Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143 179

5. Afterword How otherwise might we explain the broad setting


of Archean tectonics and magmatism? A successful
A pre-Archean, pre-3.6 or 3.8 Ga, history of the rationale certainly must incorporate the much
Earth's crust is recorded in the ancient basement higher temperatures of Archean mantle and lower
tonalitic gneisses, which have prolonged or epi- continental crust. These temperatures in turn indi-
sodic histories of partial melting, and in still older cate high degrees of uncoupling within and beneath
clastic zircons in younger Archean sedimentary the crust, and permit explanations of differential
rocks, of a number of cratons. The rest of the lateral mobility, albeit not in a modern-plate mode.
granite-and-greenstone crustal assemblages that Exposed Archean crust was built primarily by
characterize the later Archean are missing from ultramafic and mafic melts rising from the mantle
these old remnants. Some of these remnants are and by the widespread hydrous partial melting of
well-preserved basement to volcanic accumula- resulting rocks, and of ancient tonalites where
tions, and some have been mostly recycled by present, within the crust. The lavas were variably
partial melting into younger midcrustal complexes. hydrated both during and after submarine erup-
That the remnants are restricted to parts of each tion. As the volcanic crust thickened, radiogenic
craton, and did not belong to a continuous layer heat accumulating in the deep crust much aug-
of tonalitic basement, seems indicated by within- mented mantle heat, both conducted and intro-
craton variations in geochemical and relict-zircon duced in rising melts. The deep crust was long
characteristics of younger volcanic rocks. Final hotter than the water-saturated granite solidus;
equilibrations were under hydrous-melt conditions, partial-melt migmatization was active for pro-
but the roles of hydrous and anhydrous fraction- tracted periods, and partial melts formed granitic
ation of magma-ocean and impact-lake melts, of sheets within the crust and felsic volcanic rocks at
remelting, and of impact brecciation in forming the surface. Deep partial melting increased as the
these ancient rocks, the character of whatever volcanic pile thickened and heat accumulated
materials overlay them when they formed, and the faster than it was transmitted to the surface until
processes which distributed them with apparent the deep melts and partly molten migmatites rose
irregularity before the development of Archean as great diapiric batholiths, which produced most
granite-and-greenstone terrains, are otherwise of the deformation and metamorphism displayed
unknown. Liquid water covered much of the by the stratified rocks. The resulting compositional
Earth's surface by 3.8 or 3.6 Ga, but when before overturning of the crust moved radioactive iso-
that it condensed from a dense atmosphere is topes upward and permitted cooling and cratoniza-
undefined. tion of the crust and upper mantle. Major cycles
The relatively clear geologic record begins with of such behavior affected surface areas > 1000 km
Archean granite-and-greenstone terrains formed across, operated for periods of up to 100 million
after 3.6 Ga (or possibly 3.8 Ga). These typically years, and represented regional transfer of heat to
began with voluminous eruptions of mafic and the surface at rates much faster than in the
ultramafic lavas through (and between and modern Earth.
around?) the old tonalites. Plate tectonics, in the Much of the restite from the preserved cratons
modern sense, played no part in the evolution of was returned to the mantle by density conversion
the preserved assemblages, which display no appar- and by delamination. There was a net transfer of
ent analogues for products of the rifting and continental components from the mantle into the
converging regimes of the modern Earth. Some crust within the preserved cratons, but these cra-
observers see a role for plumes from the deep tons represent only a small fraction of the Earth's
mantle, but I am now dubious of this concept. outer shell of the time. We do not know whether
Thermal irregularities in the modern Earth are similar cratons developed over the entire Earth or
profoundly influenced by plate motions, and if represented local aggregations of sialic components
plate tectonics be rejected for the Archean Earth, concentrated by either vertical or horizontal pro-
what might have produced Archean irregularities? cesses, and whether or not there was a net fraction-
W.R Hamilton / Precambrian Research 91 (1998) 143-179 173

ation of continental components into the crust Acknowledgment


during Archean time. Perhaps the surviving sample
is dominated by the fraction of globe-girdling My career research has emphasized Phanerozoic
magmatic piles into which enough water was incor- tectonics, magmatism, and crustal evolution. I
porated to permit generation of voluminous felsic have not done detailed fieldwork in Archean
rocks by partial melting; where less water was assemblages but have fieldtripped widely in them
incorporated, the thick mafic and ultramafic rocks in the United States, Canada, Scotland, South
were returned to the mantle. Or perhaps survival Africa and Western Australia, in part with the
of the preserved sample was due in part to vagaries guidance of regional experts, most extensively
of distribution of pre-Archean magma-ocean and Kenneth Card and Herwart Helmstaedt, and also
impact-lake crust. The Archean Earth m a y have Stephen Barnes, Robin Hill, William Padgham,
lacked bimodal continents and oceans and had George Snyder, and m a n y others. Discussions with
unimodal topography: a continuum between buoy- m a n y experts in cosmology, mantle problems, and
ant felsic crust, recording a high degree of recycling Archean geology have greatly increased my under-
by hydrous partial melting, like that selectively standing beyond that derived from the literature.
preserved, and less fractionated crust, quickly This essay was much improved in response to
returned to the mantle. reviews by Wouter Bleeker, Andrew Hynes, Alfred
That upper continental crust was effectively Kr6ner, John Percival, and Cees van S t a a l - - a l l of
floating on partially molten lower crust during whom prefer plate-tectonic explanations. Percival,
late-stage evolution of each craton is indicated by co-editor of this volume, profoundly disagrees with
the regional uniform-wavelength shortening (and my analysis but nevertheless encouraged my parti-
orthogonal elongation?) of the upper crust that cipation in this symposium.
accompanied the diapiric rise of regional partial
melts from the deeper crust. Similar decoupling of
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