Diamonds and the African Lithosphere

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Science  25 Apr 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4749, pp. 472-477
DOI: 10.1126/science.232.4749.472


Data and inferences drawn from studies of diamond inclusions, xenocrysts, and xenoliths in the kimberlites of southern Africa are combined to characterize the structure of that portion of the Kaapvaal craton that lies within the mantle. The craton has a root composed in large part of peridotites that are strongly depleted in basaltic components. The asthenosphere boundary shelves from depths of 170 to 190 kilometers beneath the craton to approximately 140 kilometers beneath the mobile belts bordering the craton on the south and west. The root formed earlier than 3 billion years ago, and at that time ambient temperatures in it were 900° to 1200°C; these temperatures are near those estimated from data for xenoliths erupted in the Late Cretaceous or from present-day heat-flow measurements. Many of the diamonds in southern Africa are believed to have crystallized in this root in Archean time and were xenocrysts in the kimberlites that brought them to the surface.