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ABSTRACT

The southern Appalachian western Blue Ridge preserves a Mesoproterozoic and mid-Paleozoic basement and Neoproterozoic to Ordovician rift-to-drift sequence that is metamorphosed up to sillimanite grade and dissected by northwest-directed thrust faults resulting from several Paleozoic orogenic events. Despite a number of persistent controversies regarding the age of some western Blue Ridge units, and the nature and extent of multiple Paleozoic deformational/metamorphic events, synthesis of several multidisciplinary data sets (detailed geologic mapping, geochronology and thermochronology, stable-isotope chemostratigraphy) suggests that the western Blue Ridge likely records the effects of two discrete orogenic events. The earlier Taconic (470–440 Ma) event involved a progression from open folding and emplacement of the Greenbrier–Rabbit Creek and Dunn Creek thrust sheets as a foreland fold-and-thrust to low-grade hinterland system (D1A), followed by deep burial (>31 km), pervasive folding of the earlier-formed fault surfaces, and widespread Barrovian metamorphism (D1B). Because this high-grade (D1B) metamorphic event is recorded in Ordovician Mineral Bluff Group turbidites, this unit must have been deposited prior to peak orogenesis, possibly as a foreland basin or wedge-top unit in front of and/or above the developing fold-and-thrust belt. The later Alleghanian (325–265 Ma) event involved widespread northwest-directed brittle thrusting and folding related to emplacement of the Great Smoky thrust sheet (D2; hanging wall of the Blue Ridge– Piedmont thrust). Mid-Paleozoic 40Ar/39Ar muscovite ages from western Blue Ridge samples likely record post-Taconic cooling (hornblende and some muscovite 40Ar/39Ar ages) and/or Alleghanian thrust-related exhumation and cooling (ca. 325 Ma muscovite 40Ar/39Ar and 300–270 Ma zircon fission-track ages), as opposed to resulting from a discrete Neoacadian thermal-deformational event. The lack of evidence for a discrete Neoacadian event further implies that all deformation recorded in the Silurian–Mississippian(?) Maggies Mill–Citico Formation must be Alleghanian. We interpret this structurally isolated sequence to have been derived from the footwall of the Great Smoky fault as an orphan slice that was subsequently breached through the Great Smoky hanging wall along the out-of-sequence Maggies Mill thrust.

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