Oxidation state of iron in komatiitic melt inclusions indicates hot Archaean mantle

Andrew J. Berry, Leonid V. Danyushevsky, Hugh St C. O'Neill, Matt Newville, Stephen R. Sutton

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150 Citations (Scopus)


Komatiites are volcanic rocks mainly of Archaean age that formed by unusually high degrees of melting of mantle peridotite. Their origin is controversial and has been attributed to either anhydrous melting of anomalously hot mantle or hydrous melting at temperatures only modestly greater than those found today. Here we determine the original Fe3+/∑Fe ratio of 2.7-Gyr-old komatiitic magma from Belingwe, Zimbabwe, preserved as melt inclusions in olivine, to be 0.10 ± 0.02, using iron K-edge X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy. This value is consistent with near-anhydrous melting of a source with a similar oxidation state to the source of present-day mid-ocean-ridge basalt. Furthermore, this low Fe 3+/∑Fe value, together with a water content of only 0.2-0.3 wt% (ref. 7), excludes the possibility that the trapped melt contained significantly more water that was subsequently lost from the inclusions by reduction to H2 and diffusion. Loss of only 1.5 wt% water by this mechanism would have resulted in complete oxidation of iron (that is, the Fe3+/ ∑Fe ratio would be ∼1). There is also no petrographic evidence for the loss of molecular water. Our results support the identification of the Belingwe komatiite as a product of high mantle temperatures (∼1,700°C), rather than melting under hydrous conditions (3-5-wt% water), confirming the existence of anomalously hot mantle in the Archaean era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)960-963
Number of pages4
Issue number7215
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes

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