Interlayered plagioclase-quartz gneisses and amphibolites from 2.7 to more than 3.6 b.y. old form much of the basement underlying Precambrian greenstone belts of the world; they are especially well-developed and preserved in the Transvaal and Rhodesian cratons. We postulate that these basement rocks are largely a metamorphosed, volcanic, bimodal suite of tholeiite and high-silica low-potash dacite-compositionally similar to the 1.8-b.y.-old Twilight Gneiss - and partly intrusive equivalents injected into the lower parts of such volcanic piles. We speculate that magmatism in the Early Precambrian involved higher heat flow and more hydrous conditions than in the Phanerozoic. Specifically, we suggest that the early degassing of the Earth produced a basaltic crust and pyrolitic upper mantle that contained much amphibole, serpentine, and other hydrous minerals. Dehydration of the lower parts of a downgoing slab of such hydrous crust and upper mantle would release sufficient water to prohibit formation of andesitic liquid in the upper part of the slab. Instead, a dacitic liquid and a residuum of amphibole and other silica-poor phases would form, according to Green and Ringwood's experimental results. Higher temperatures farther down the slab would cause total melting of basalt and generation of the tholeiitic member of the suite. This type of magma generation and volcanism persisted until the early hydrous lithosphere was consumed. An implication of this hypothesis is that about half the present volume of the oceans formed before about 2.6 b.y. ago. ?? 1974.
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Bimodal tholeiitic-dacitic magmatism and the Early Precambrian crust