The processes that created the first large cratonic areas such as the Pilbara and the Kaapvaal remain poorly understood. Models based on the uniformitarian extrapolation of present-day arc volcanic processes to a hotter early Earth have not adequately explained the observations in these terranes. Here we propose an alternative mechanism for the formation of the earliest continental crust. The formation of continental crust may be achieved by delamination of the lower eclogitic part of an oceanic plateau–like protocrust. Such delamination results in uplift, extension, and the production of tonalite, trondhjemite, and granodiorite (TTG) suites as recorded in Middle Archean cratons. The available geologic and geophysical observations in combination with model calculations permit this scenario as an alternative to subduction-based hypotheses.

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