Geochemistry of the oldest MORB and OIB in the Isua Supracrustal Belt, southern West Greenland: Implications for the composition and temperature of early Archean upper mantle

Tsuyoshi Komiya, Shigenori Maruyama, Takafumi Hirata, Hisayoshi Yurimoto, Susumu Nohda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Citations (Scopus)


Recent geological investigations of the Isua Supracrustal Belt (3.8 Ga), southern West Greenland, have suggested that it is the oldest accretionary complex on earth, defined by an oceanic plate-type stratigraphy and a duplex structure. Plate history from mid-oceanic ridge through plume magmatism to subduction zone has been postulated from analysis of the reconstructed oceanic plate stratigraphy in the accretionary complex. Comparison between field occurrence of greenstones in modern and ancient accretionary complexes reveals that two types of tholeiitic basalt from different tectonic settings, mid-oceanic ridge basalt (MORB) and oceanic island basalt (OIB), occur. This work presents major, trace and rare earth element (REE) compositions of greenstones derived from Isua MORB and OIB, and of extremely rare relict igneous clinopyroxene in Isua MORB. The Isua clinopyroxenes (Cpx) have compositional variations equivalent to those of Cpx in modern MORB; in particular, low TiO2 and Na2O contents. The Isua Cpx show slightly light (L)REE-depleted REE patterns, and the calculated REE pattern of the host magma is in agreement with that of Isua MORB. Analyses of 49 least-altered greenstones carefully selected from approximately 1200 samples indicate that Isua MORB are enriched in Al2O3, and depleted in TiO2, FeO*, Y and Zr at the given MgO content, compared with Isua OIB. In addition, Isua MORB show an LREE-depleted pattern, whereas Isua OIB forms a flat REE pattern. Such differences suggest that the Early Archean mantle had already become heterogeneous, depending on the tectonic environment. Isua MORB are enriched in FeO compared with modern MORB. Comparison of Isua MORB with recent melting experiments shows that the source mantle had 85-87 in Mg# and was enriched in FeO. Potential mantle temperature is estimated to be approximately 1480°C, indicating that the Early Archean mantle was hotter by at most approximately 150°C than the modern mantle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-72
Number of pages26
JournalIsland Arc
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes



  • Accretionary complex
  • Archean mid-oceanic ridge basalt (MORB)
  • Archean oceanic basalt (OIB)
  • Early Archean
  • Mantle evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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