The age distribution of the crust is a fundamental parameter in modeling continental evolution and the rate of crustal accretion through Earth's history, but this is usually estimated from surface exposures. The exposed Yangtze craton in eastern China consists mainly of Proterozoic rocks with rare Archean outcrops. However, the U-Pb ages and Hf isotope systematics of xenocrystic zircons brought to the surface in lamproite diatremes from three Proterozoic outcrop areas of the craton suggest the widespread presence of unexposed Archean basement, with zircon age populations of 2900–2800 Ma and 2600– 2500 Ma and Hf model ages of 2.6 to ca. 3.5 Ga or older. The zircons also record thermal events reworked on the craton ca. 2020 Ma (remelting of older crust) and 1000–850 Ma (addition of juvenile mantle material). The observation of deep crust significantly older than the upper crust will require revision of models for the rates of crustal generation through time.

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