This study presents new field and petrological observations combined with geochemical data on a range of komatiitic to tholeiitic volcanic rocks from the ca. 3.48 Ga mid-lower Komati Formation type-section of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa. A range of mafic-ultramafic rocks is identified across a 1.44 km profile, leading to the proposition of a new preliminary volcanic architecture for the mid-lower Komati Formation type-section. Major, trace and rare earth element (REE) data in conjunction with Lu-Hf isotopic constraints indicate that the tholeiites, newly recognized high-magnesium basalts, basaltic komatiites and komatiites in the volcanic sequence have a primitive mantle signature with no geochemical affinity to Archaean or modern-day supra-subduction zone boninites. The whole rock initial εHf values of spinifex and massive komatiite flows in the lowermost part of the Komati type-section are negative, ranging between -1.9 and -3.1, whereas the second overlying spinifex and massive flow unit records positive initial εHf values between +0.5 and +4.7. A new geodynamic model involving crustal contamination of the mafic-ultramafic lavas is proposed for the Barberton mid-lower Komati Formation type-section, involving mantle plume-crust interaction. The new observations and data indicate that the komatiites erupted as a result of a mantle plume from a hot (>1 600oC) mid-Archaean mantle, in which the earliest volcanic flows were variably affected by crustal contamination during their ascent and eruption. The possibility of incorporation of lower crustal material and/or recycled crust residing in the mantle source region cannot be excluded. This indicates that modern-style plate tectonic processes, such as subduction, may not have been a requirement for the formation of the 3.48 Ga Barberton komatiite suite, with implications for the hydration state, geodynamic processes and secular thermal evolution of the Archaean mantle.

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