High-grade metamorphism and partial melting in Archean composite grey gneiss complexes

R. W. White*, R. M. Palin, E. C. R. Green

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Much of the exposed Archean crust is composed of composite gneiss which includes a large proportion of intermediate to tonalitic material. These gneiss terranes were typically metamorphosed to amphibolite to granulite facies conditions, with evidence for substantial partial melting at higher grade. Recently published activity-composition (a-x) models for partial melting of metabasic to intermediate compositions allows calculation of the stable metamorphic minerals, melt production and melt composition in such rocks for the first time. Calculated P-T pseudosections are presented for six bulk rock compositions taken from the literature, comprising two metabasic compositions, two intermediate/dioritic compositions and two tonalitic compositions. This range of bulk compositions captures much of the diversity of rock types found in Archean banded gneiss terranes, enabling us to present an overview of metamorphism and partial melting in such terranes. If such rocks are fluid saturated at the solidus, they first begin to melt in the upper amphibolite facies. However, at such conditions, very little (<5%) melt is produced and this melt is granitic in composition for all rocks. The production of greater proportions of melt requires temperatures approximate to 800-850 °C and is associated with the first appearance of orthopyroxene at pressures below 8-9 kbar or with the appearance and growth of garnet at higher pressures. The temperature at which orthopyroxene appears varies little with composition providing a robust estimate of the amphibolite-granulite facies boundary. Across this boundary, melt production is coincident with the breakdown of hornblende and/or biotite. Melts produced at granulite facies range from tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite for the metabasic protoliths, granodiorite to granite for the intermediate protoliths and granite for the tonalitic protoliths. Under fluid-absent conditions the melt fertility of the different protoliths is largely controlled by the relative proportions of hornblende and quartz at high grade, with the intermediate compositions being the most fertile. The least fertile rocks are the most leucocratic tonalites due to their relatively small proportions of hydrous mafic phases such as hornblende or biotite. In the metabasic rocks, melt production becomes limited by the complete consumption of quartz to higher temperatures. The use of phase equilibrium forward-modelling provides a thermodynamic framework for understanding melt production, melt loss and intracrustal differentiation during the Archean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-195
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number2
Early online date24 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Amphibolite
  • Granulite
  • Intracrustal differentiation
  • Metatonalite


Dive into the research topics of 'High-grade metamorphism and partial melting in Archean composite grey gneiss complexes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this