Abstract

The 3.55-3.22 Ga Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa and Swaziland, and surrounding coeval plutons can be divided into four tectono-stratigraphic blocks that become younger toward the north west. Each block formed through early mafic to ultramafic volcanism (Onverwacht Group), probably in oceanic extensional, island, or plateau settings. Volcanism was followed by magmatic quiescence and deposition of fine-grained sediments, possibly in an intraplate setting. Late evolution involved underplating of the mafic rust by tonalitic intrusions along a subduction-related magmatic arc, yielding a thickened, buoyant protocontinental block. The growth of larger continental domains occurred both through magmatic accretion, as new protocontinental blocks developed along the margins of older blocks, and when previously separate blocks were amalgamated through tectonic accretion. Evolution of the Barber-ton Belt may reflect an Early Archean plate tectonic cycle that characterized a world with few or no large, stabilized blocks of sialic crust.

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