Remnants of early Archean impact deposits on earth: Search for a meteoritic component in the BARB5 and CT3 drill cores (Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa)

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Abstract

The first 2.5 billion years of the terrestrial impact history are not documented by any impact structures. Only a few spherule layers of impact origin are known, most of them of late Archean to early Proterozoic age. In the Barberton Greenstone Belt (South Africa), several spherule horizons (layers S1 to S4, possibly up to S8, with ages between ∼3.5 and ∼3.2 Ga) are amongst the oldest deposits from large bolide impacts onto Earth. Impact evidence is limited to (highly) elevated siderophile element contents and Cr isotopic compositions. Other isotope tools, such as the 187Re-188Os radionuclide system in combination with high-precision concentration data for siderophile elements, might be useful to confirm the propositions regarding the presence of meteoritic components made so far. Two recently recovered drill cores from the central and northern Barberton area (CT3 and BARB5) with as many as 18 spherule layer intersections of Paleoarchean age (some of which may be due to tectonic duplication, some might correlate with the S2 to S4 layers) provide an outstanding opportunity to gain new insight into the early impact bombardment of Earth. We present new mineralogical, chemical, and 187Re-188Os isotope data on CT3 and BARB5 drill core samples. Spherules in most layers exhibit undeformed shapes and include vesicles. Sulfides frequently are present in both matrix and spherules. Osmium data reveal a trend between the spherule-free horizons (intercalating the spherule layers) and spherule-matrix aggregates. Whereas the former typically exhibit elevated 187Os/188Os ratios of up to ∼1.2 and low Os and Ir concentrations below several hundred ppt, spherule-matrix aggregates tend to be less radiogenic (down to subchondritic present day 187Os/188Os ratios) with Os and Ir concentrations as high as in chondrites. Chromium-Ir correlations for CT3 and BARB5 samples mirror earlier results on S1 to S4 layers and can be interpreted in favor of an impact origin of the here investigated spherule horizons.

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Koeberl, C., Schulz, T., & Reimold, W. U. (2015). Remnants of early Archean impact deposits on earth: Search for a meteoritic component in the BARB5 and CT3 drill cores (Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa). In Procedia Engineering (Vol. 103, pp. 310–317). Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeng.2015.04.052

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