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An overview is presented of the field relations, age data and geochemical characteristics of the Neoarchaean granites and greenstones of the Zimbabwe Craton, southern Africa. A major tectono-magmatic event at c. 2.7 Ga produced two distinct greenstone successions. One succession is reminiscent of rift- or back-arc environments and is associated with an old continental fragment. A second succession is indicative of arc magmatism and is associated with juvenile crust. Both were affected by a major accretionary event that, in an apparent sense, swept across the craton between 2.68 and 2.60 Ga. During this 80 Ma time period, concomitant late volcanism, regional deformation, the development of syntectonic sedimentary successions in foreland-type basins, and late syntectonic plutonism took place in selected shear-zone-bounded tectonic domains over limited periods of time (<10–20 Ma). Deformation led to isostatically stable, 30–40 km thick continental crust, without significant exhumation of high-pressure rocks, suggesting that lithospheric shortening was accommodated independently in a rheologically strong upper and weak lower crust. Deformation was followed by pan-cratonic crustal melting and strike-slip shear motions, and led to stabilization of the crust at 2575 Ma, heralded by the emplacement of the Great Dyke.

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