Heterogeneous Hadean crust with ambient mantle affinity recorded in detrital zircons of the Green Sandstone Bed, South Africa

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The nature of Earth's earliest crust and the processes by which it formed remain major issues in Precambrian geology. Due to the absence of a rock record older than ∼4.02 Ga, the only direct record of the Hadean is from rare detrital zircon and that largely from a single area: the Jack Hills and Mount Narryer region of Western Australia. Here, we report on the geochemistry of Hadean detrital zircons as old as 4.15 Ga from the newly discovered Green Sandstone Bed in the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa. We demonstrate that the U-Nb-Sc-Yb systematics of the majority of these Hadean zircons show a mantle affinity as seen in zircon from modern plume-type mantle environments and do not resemble zircon from modern continental or oceanic arcs. The zircon trace element compositions furthermore suggest magma compositions ranging from higher temperature, primitive to lower temperature, and more evolved tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG)-like magmas that experienced some reworking of hydrated crust. We propose that the Hadean parental magmas of the Green Sandstone Bed zircons formed from remelting of mafic, mantle-derived crust that experienced some hydrous input during melting but not from the processes seen in modern arc magmatism.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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