Earth's middle age

Peter Anthony Cawood, Chris Hawkesworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)
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Earth's middle age, extending from 1.7 to 0.75 Ga, was characterized by environmental, evolutionary, and lithospheric stability that contrasts with the dramatic changes in preceding and succeeding eras. The period is marked by a paucity of preserved passive margins, an absence of a significant Sr anomaly in the paleoseawater record and in the εHf(t) in detrital zircon, a lack of orogenic gold and volcanic-hosted massive sulfide deposits, and an absence of glacial deposits and iron formations. In contrast, anorthosites and kindred bodies are well developed and major pulses of Mo and Cu mineralization, including the world's largest examples of these deposits, are features of this period. These trends are attributed to a relatively stable continental assemblage that was initiated during assembly of the Nuna supercontinent by ca. 1.7 Ga and continued until breakup of its closely related successor, Rodinia, ca. 0.75 Ga. The overall low abundance of passive margins is consistent with a stable continental configuration, which also provided a framework for environmental and evolutionary stability. A series of convergent margin accretionary orogens developed along the edge of the supercontinent. Abundant anorthosites and related rocks developed inboard of the plate margin. Their temporal distribution appears to link with the secular cooling of the mantle, at which time the overlying continental lithosphere was strong enough to be thickened and to support the emplacement of large plutons into the crust, yet the underlying mantle was still warm enough to result in widespread melting of the lower thickened crust.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-506
Number of pages4
Issue number6
Early online date10 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • Anorthosites
  • Nuna supercontinent
  • Rodinia
  • Stable continental configuration
  • Accretionary orogens
  • Geological stability
  • Continental lithosphere
  • Passive margins


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