Master of Science (MS)


Geology and Geophysics

Document Type



The Mendon Formation in the Barberton Greenstone Belt of South Africa marks the boundary between the Onverwacht and Fig Tree Groups. These groups are characterized by mafic to ultramafic volcanism and felsic volcanism with related epiclastic sedimentation, respectively. This transition marks the end of komatiitic volcanism in the Barberton Greenstone Belt and is accompanied by numerous impact-related spherule layers. This study characterizes the upper Mendon Formation texturally and geochemically over a wide areal extent and across structure and facies change in an attempt to better understand the evolution of tectonic processes at this boundary. A suite of whole rock and handheld X-Ray Fluorescence analyses are presented in conjunction with textural information, stratigraphic relationships, and U/Pb ages to create a temporal and chemostratigraphic framework for the Mendon Formation. Local and regional stratigraphic variations, including absence of distinctive layers and variation in layer thickness, seen across the Mendon preclude ascription of a single stratigraphy that accurately describes the >1.2 km of section present in this formation. These variations indicate diachronous deposition of the Mendon over a wide areal extent and into multiple basins or sub-basins by more than one magmatic source. 204Pb-corrected 206Pb/238U and 207Pb/235U concordia model ages of 3279 ± 9.1 Ma and 3287.3 ± 2.9 Ma for two samples from upper portions of the Mendon provide temporal context for deposition during the Mendon Formation. Two samples from the basal 10 m of the Fig Tree Group, above the S2 spherule bed that marks the boundary between the Onverwacht and Fig Tree Groups, give model ages of 3267.8 ± 6.9 Ma and 3261 ± 18 Ma. These ages provide added constraints for the Onverwacht-Fig Tree boundary and confirm that the Weltevreden Formation is roughly age-correlative with the uppermost Mendon Formation. While these formations are in part age-correlative and have similar lithologies, they do not appear to be genetically related. The dominance of ultramafic volcanic rocks and the paucity of felsic volcanic and terrigenous sedimentary rocks within the Mendon and Weltevreden Formations indicate that the primary mode of crustal formation was likely plume-related magmatic accretion and not subduction. The relatively sharp transition within the BGB from ultramafic volcanic sequences to more felsic volcanic and epiclastic sedimentary sequences is everywhere marked by impact-related spherule layers, which suggest that major impacts may have played a role in the evolution of early Earth tectonics to more modern, subduction-related styles.



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Committee Chair

Byerly, Gary