Elements: Cratons to Continents

June 05, 2024

Archean continental crust is present on every continent, but does not constitute a dominant part of any continent’s surficial exposures. Nevertheless, Archean cratons are the longest-­lived coherent physical structures on Earth. Viewed holistically, they comprise a welded com­bination of continental crust and as sub­continental lithospheric mantle keel. They are survivors of what may, or may not, have been a more numerous and varied population of protocontinents. Many of these crustal blocks have origins in the Hadean and have survived for billions of years through many super­continent cycles. Consequently, these craton­-keel structures have influenced the physical and chemical evolution of the silicate Earth. This issue of Elements provides an overview of Archean cratons and the information they retain about the early development of Earth’s continental crust.

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