Much of the present-day volume of Earth's continental crust had formed by the end of the Archean Eon, 2.5 billion years ago, through the conversion of basaltic (mafic) crust into sodic granite of tonalite, trondhjemite and granodiorite (TTG) composition. Distinctive chemical signatures in a small proportion of these rocks, the so-called high-pressure TTG, are interpreted to indicate partial melting of hydrated crust at pressures above 1.5 GPa (>50 km depth), pressures typically not reached in post-Archean continental crust. These interpretations significantly influence views on early crustal evolution and the onset of plate tectonics. Here we show that high-pressure TTG did not form through melting of crust, but through fractionation of melts derived from metasomatically enriched lithospheric mantle. Although the remaining, and dominant, group of Archean TTG did form through melting of hydrated mafic crust, there is no evidence that this occurred at depths significantly greater than the ~40 km average thickness of modern continental crust.