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Plate tectonics provide a unifying conceptual framework for the understanding of Phanerozoic orogens. More controversially, recent syntheses apply these principles as far back as the Early Archaean. Many ancient orogens are, however, poorly preserved and the processes responsible for them are not well understood. The effects of processes such as delamination, subduction of oceanic and aseismic ridges, overriding of plumes and subduction erosion are rarely identified in ancient orogens, although they have a profound effect on Cenozoic orogens. However, deeply eroded ancient orogens provide insights into the hidden roots of modern orogens.
Recent advances in analytical techniques, as well as in fields such as geodynamics, have provided fresh insights into ancient orogenic belts, so that realistic modern analogies can now be applied. This Special Publication offers up-to-date reviews and models for some of the most important orogenic belts developed over the past 2.5 billion years of Earth history.