The Malolotsha Klippe: Large-scale subhorizontal tectonics along the southern margin of the Archean Barberton Greenstone Belt, Eswatini

Christoph Heubeck, Tonny B. Thomsen, Benjamin D. Heredia, Armin Zeh, Philipp Balling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Whether Archean tectonics were horizontally or vertically dominated is controversially discussed because arguments bear on the kinematics and thermal state of the Archean mantle and constrain the mode of formation of the earliest continental crust. Highly deformed strata of Archean greenstone belts figure prominently in this debate because they record long periods of time and multiple deformation phases. Among the best-preserved greenstone belts counts the Barberton Greenstone Belt (BGB) of southern Africa. Geological mapping of part of the southern BGB in Eswatini (Swaziland), combined with U-Pb zircon dating, shows that the region preserves a tightly re-folded imbricate thrust stack in which metavolcanic and -volcaniclastic strata of the Onverwacht Group, deposited at 3.34–3.29 Ga, have been thrust on top of ca. 3.22 Ga siliciclastic strata of the Moodies Group. The structurally highest element, the Malolotsha Syncline, forms a tectonic klippe of substantial size and is >1,450 m thick. Forward modeling of a balanced cross section indicates that this thrust stack was part of a northwestward-verging orogen along the southern margin of the BGB and records a minimum horizontal displacement of 33 km perpendicular to its present-day faulted, ductily strained and multiply metamorphosed margin. Because conglomerate clasts indicate a significantly higher degree of prolate strain which extends further into the BGB than at its northern margin, late-stage tectonic architecture of the BGB may be highly asymmetrical. Our study documents that the BGB, and perhaps other Archean greenstone belts, preserves a complex array of both vertically- and horizontally-dominated deformation styles that have interfered with each other at small regional and short temporal scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022TC007359
Number of pages25
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Archean
  • Barberton
  • Eswatini
  • Greenstone Belt
  • Klippe
  • Swaziland

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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