Development of a detrital garnet geochronometer and the search for Earth's oldest garnet
Maneiro, Kathryn Ann
MetadataShow full item record
Due to Earth’s efficient crustal recycling through plate tectonics, the remaining physical record of Earth’s first two billion years consists of mineral fragments and heavily metamorphosed rocks in isolated Archean cratons. Characterization of Earth’s earliest tectonic processes requires investigation of all available records; the mineral garnet has been largely overlooked. The major element chemistry and samarium-neodymium (Sm-Nd) isotope ratios preserved in fragmented detrital garnet and Archean metamorphic garnet record the timing and conditions of early tectonic events. This work presents detailed methodology for a new detrital garnet geochronometer unlocking age information from previously undateable detrital garnet surviving recycling in sediment, sedimentary rocks, and metasedimentary rocks. The new method’s utility is demonstrated by dating garnet from a Scottish sedimentary rock and nineteen individual garnet grains from a tributary to the French Broad River in the southern Appalachians. In the southern Appalachians, garnet and existing monazite ages overlap (though the mean garnet age is slightly younger) to record the most recent metamorphic event and both are younger than inherited zircon ages. Proof-of-concept testing demonstrating protocol development for blank-correction and routine analysis of samples smaller than 1 ng advances small Sm-Nd analysis. Additionally, this work applies existing Sm-Nd garnet geochronology methods to search for garnet older than 2.5 Ga and provide age constraints on the complicated metamorphic histories of two Archean cratons. A search for detrital garnet in a sample from the Jack Hills metasedimentary belt of Western Australia hosting the Earth’s oldest known terrestrial materials (ca. 4.3 Ga) failed to produce garnet. Instead, two samples collected ~4 km south of the Jack Hills belt in the Narryer Terrane were dated to confirm Narryer regional metamorphism at ca. 2.6 Ga. The Acasta gneiss of northern Canada, arguably Earth’s oldest known cohesive rock outcrop (ca. 4.0 Ga), produced one of the Earth’s oldest known garnet ages. Garnet ages of ca. 2.95 Ga constrain the timing of Archean metamorphism and the data also indicate potential for preservation of even older garnet. Finally, a compilation of published garnet ages in the literature is presented to summarize the community’s progress in the search for Earth’s oldest garnet.