The deep upper mantle is the main source of high-temperature magmatism, but the only known naturally occurring samples of high-pressure mantle constituents are mineral inclusions in diamonds. Trace elements in olivine crystals from the 3.33 Ga Commondale Greenstone Belt in South Africa reveal that these crystals formed in the deep upper mantle as high-pressure phenocrysts, and some perhaps even formed in the mantle transition zone (410–600 km) where they began as wadsleyite. The crystals were entrained within ascending komatiite magma and conveyed to the surface. The olivine crystals have the highest contents of Al2O3 (0.3 wt%) recorded in any terrestrial olivine, which is indicative of formation at high pressure. The deep mantle gave rise to Archean komatiites, extraordinarily hot magmas (up to 1700 °C), which provide insight into Earth’s early mantle evolution and the formation of most ancient continental and oceanic crust. In spite of extensive research since their discovery over 50 years ago, the origins of komatiites have remained contentious. Plumes—thermochemical instabilities originating at the core-mantle boundary—are the most likely source, but no direct evidence of a deep mantle origin of komatiite has yet been recognized.

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