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The major periods of metamorphism in the Central Zone (CZ) of the Limpopo Complex occurred at 2.0 Ga and in the time range between ca. 2.7 and ca. 2.55 Ga. We investigate intracrustal radioactivity as a possible heat source for the earlier of these episodes. Available airborne radiometric surveys that cover the South African part of the CZ, combined with rock analyses, yield 2.15 μg/g U, 12.3 μg/g Th, and 12,650 μg/g K as a weighted regional average. The corresponding heat production rate at 2.65 Ga is 2.6 μW × m−3. A steady-state geotherm, calculated assuming uniform [U], [Th], and [K] throughout the crustal column and its thickening to 45 km during the ca. 2.65 Ga event (both arguable on the basis of peak metamorphic pressure-temperature [P-T] data), surpasses temperatures of the peak metamorphism at middle and lower crustal levels, which cluster around the fluid-absent biotite dehydration solidus. Intracrustal radioactivity thus provided a sufficient heat source to account for the metamorphism at ca. 2.65 Ga, and partial melting acted as a lower crustal thermostat. After crustal thickening, up to more than 100 m.y. (dependent on U, Th, and K concentrations) would be needed to approach a new steady state. Predicted regional variations thus account for the long duration of the ca. 2.65 Ga metamorphism. Lower crustal partial melting could have led to diapirism, yielding the steep structures in the CZ, which are not aligned to a regional fabric. Metamorphism ceased after crustal thinning to a normal 30 km. The metamorphic event at 2.0 Ga cannot be explained by this type of process.

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