Continental growth and convergence-related arc plutonism in the Mesoarchaean: Evidence from the Barberton granitoid-greenstone terrain, South Africa
U-Pb zircon ages from trondhjemitic gneisses of the Badplaas domain, located in the southwestern parts of the Mesoarchaean Barberton granitoid-greenstone terrain of South Africa, document a hitherto largely unrecognized plutonic event. The geochronological results indicate the addition of juvenile, felsic crust over a period of 60 Myr between ca. 3290 and 3230 Ma and prior to the main collisional event in the granitoid-greenstone terrain at 3230 Ma. The timing and duration of plutonism, together with the structural and compositional heterogeneity of the Badplaas domain suggest that the Badplaas domain represents part of a convergence-related magmatic arc. On a regional scale, the spatial and temporal relationships between plutonism, metamorphism and deformation are interpreted to preserve an almost complete inventory of a Mesoarchean arc-trench system. This includes (1) the 3290-3230 Ma convergence-related magmatic arc, (2) a largely coeval deposition of the back-arc type volcano-sedimentary 3260-3225 Ma Fig Tree Group of the Barberton greenstone belt, (3) relics of the underplated crust preserved in high-P, low-T rocks to the immediate east of the magmatic arc, juxtaposed against (4) high-T medium-P rocks of the overlying plate along the major crustal structure of the Inyoni shear zone. These findings corroborate the notion that thermal and rheological conditions on the early Earth supported, at least locally, crustal growth and the extraction of buoyant felsic crust along convergence-related magmatic arcs. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.