Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Evidence for a 3.45-billion-year-old magnetic remanence: Hints of an ancient geodynamo from conglomerates of South Africa



[1] Paleomagnetic and rock magnetic analyses of ∼3445-million-year-old dacite conglomerate clasts and parent body rocks from the Barberton greenstone belt, South Africa, define two dominant components of magnetization. One component, unblocked at low temperature, is an overprint acquired ∼180 million years ago. The other component is unblocked at high temperatures and passes a conglomerate test, indicating that this component is older than the depositional age of the conglomerate (∼3416 Ma). The high unblocking temperature component shows scatter in the parent body rocks that can be explained by the effects of modern lightning strikes, Archean overprinting, and the presence of multidomain magnetic grains that are conducive to carrying secondary magnetizations. Alternatively, this scatter can be explained by exotic magnetization scenarios in the absence of a dynamo, including magnetization by an external field related to solar wind interaction with the atmosphere. Such exotic mechanisms can be tested with the acquisition of paleointensity data. While more scattered than paleomagnetic data recording the more recent geomagnetic field, the high unblocking temperature component in the dacite parent body shows some consistency, and the simplest explanation of the data is that they reflect a geodynamo ∼3445 million years ago.