Low elastic strength of ancient lithosphere based on flexural analyses has been interpreted to reflect elevated regional geothermal gradients in response to higher global heat production in the past. Here we present a flexural analysis of Archean/Palaeoproterozoic sediment cover along the western margin of the Archaean Kaapvaal craton based on seismic stratigraphy. Our results show that between ~1.93 and ~1.75 Ga, the Archaean margin of the craton had an effective elastic thickness of 7.5 to 10km compared to its present day value of 60 to 70km. Because the Kaapvaal craton had already stabilized by ~2.7 Ga and was underlain by 150 to 300km thick strong mantle lithosphere, it is unlikely that the relatively thin elastic thickness along this old margin reflects a change in secular cooling of the Earth. Instead, we interpret the low elastic strength to be a transient marginal tectonic effect similar to that recorded along modern continental margins.

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