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Late Archaean granitic rocks from the southern Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia have a close temporal relationship to the basaltic and komatiitic volcanism which occurs within spatially associated greenstone belts. Greenstone volcanism apparently began ∼2715 Ma ago, whereas voluminous felsic magmatism (both extrusive and intrusive) began about 2690 Ma ago. A brief but voluminous episode of crust-derived magmatism ∼2690–2685 Ma ago resulted in the emplacement of a diverse assemblage of plutons having granodioritic, monzogranitic and tonalitic compositions. This early felsic episode was followed immediately by the emplacement of mafic sills, and, after a further time delay, by a second episode of voluminous crust-derived magmatism dominated by monzogranite but containing plutons covering a wide compositional range, including diorite, granodiorite and tonalite. The products of this 2665– 2660 Ma magmatic episode now form a significant fraction of the exposed southern Yilgarn Craton. Later magmatism, which continued to at least 2600 Ma ago, appears largely restricted to rocks having unusually fractionated compositions.

The magmatic sequence basalt–voluminous crust-derived magmatism–later diverse magmatism, is interpreted in terms of a dynamically-based model for the ascent of the head of a new mantle plume. In this model basalts and komatiites are derived by decompression melting of rising plume material, and the crust-derived magmas result after conductive transport of heat from the top of the plume head into overlying continental crust. This type of magmatic evolution, the fundamentally bimodal nature of the magmatism, the presence of high-Mg volcanics (komatiites), and the areal extent of the late Archaean magmatic event, are all suggested to be characteristic of crustal reworking above mantle plumes rather than resulting from other processes, such as those related to subduction.

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