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Archaean Crustal Evolution
And the Formation of Continents

    The earth began in a state similar to the moon with a crustal (lithospheric) surface composed dominantly of mafic/ultramafic igneous rocks and anorthosites. With the formation of the oceans the early earth would have been a relatively simple world compared with today - oceans from pole to pole, with occasional scattered hot spot volcanos. Quickly, however, convection cells established divergent and convergent plate boundaries which began the fractionation processes that would build the continents.
    The sequence of cross sections below illustrate the kinds of processes by which initial volcanic arcs could increase in size to form protocontinents, then through cordilleran orogenies and collisions form protocontinets, which would grow to form microcontinents, which would eventually grow to form supercontinents. All of these processes constitute variations on the Wilson cycle. The combinations and permutations of relationships is virtually endless. Anything that could reasonably happen, probably happened.

Last Update: 9/05/00

e-mail: (Fichtels@jmu.edu)