We present a petrographic, petrological, geochemical, and geochronological study (U–Pb/Lu–Hf) on granulite-facies paragneisses of the Mahamba Gneiss Complex in central Swaziland, eastern Kaapvaal Craton. Our data suggest that prograde metamorphism occurred at c. 3.07 Ga. Dating of detrital zircons of a metapelite in combination with geochronological and ambiguous structural relationships with granitoid gneisses suggests two possible scenarios: (1) the time of deposition of the sedimentary protoliths is prior to c. 3.58 Ga; (2) c. 3.58 Ga granitoid crust was the basement for the sedimentary protoliths. Furthermore, enrichment in Ni and Cr in the Mahamba metasediments may originate from erosion of a greenstone terrane similar in composition to the dominantly mafic and ultramafic lithologies of the Barberton Greenstone Belt or Dwalile supracrustal belt. Evidence for an older crustal basement is provided by the oldest detrital zircons, which yield ages up to c. 3.7 Ga. Because the metamorphic conditions of metapelitic rocks have no similarity to P–T paths of modern subduction–collision tectonic settings we conclude that the metamorphic history of the Mahamba Gneiss Complex cannot be explained by this model. We propose that deformation and metamorphism occurred through intracratonic contraction and a thermal event possibly related to Mpuluzi batholith emplacement.
Sample localities, mineral chemistry, analytical methods, and mineral equilibria modelling method are available at www.geolsoc.org.uk/SUP18786.