The Mesoproterozoic Gardar Province in South Greenland developed in a continental rift-related environment. Several alkaline intrusions and associated dyke swarms were emplaced in Archaean and Ketilidian basement rocks during two main magmatic periods at 1300–1250 Ma and 1180–1140 Ma. The present investigation focuses on mafic dykes from the early magmatic period (‘Older Gardar’) and the identification of their possible mantle sources.

The rocks are typically fine- to coarse-grained dolerites, transitional between tholeiitic and alkaline compositions with a general predominance of Na over K. They crystallized from relatively evolved, mantle-derived melts and commonly show minor degrees of crustal contamination. Selective enrichment of the large ion lithophile elements Cs, Ba and K and the light rare-earth elements when compared to high field-strength elements indicate significant involvement of a sub-continental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) component in the generation of the magmas. This component was affected by fluid-dominated supra-subduction zone metasomatism, possibly related to the Ketilidian orogeny ~500 Ma years prior to the onset of Gardar magmatism. Melt generation in the SCLM is further documented by the inferential presence of amphibole in the source region, negative calculated εNd(i) values (−0.47 to −4.40) and slightly elevated 87Sr/86Sr(i) (0.702987 to 0.706472) ratios when compared to bulk silicate earth as well as relatively flat heavy rare-earth element (HREE) patterns ((Gd/Yb)N = 1.4–1.9) indicating melt generation above the garnet stability field.

The dyke rocks investigated show strong geochemical and geochronological similarities to pene-contemporaneous mafic dyke swarms in North America and Central Scandinavia and a petrogenetic link is hypothesized. Considering recent plate reconstructions, it is further suggested that magmatism was formed behind a long-lived orogenic belt in response to back-arc basin formation in the time interval between 1290–1235 Ma.

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