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The French Massif Central (average height 800 m) is the largest pre-Mesozoic, Variscan outcrop in France (80,000 km2). It consists of lower Paleozoic metasediments, poorly dated mica schists, and high-grade gneisses (granitic orthogneisses, mafic, and ultramafic rocks). As part of the southern limb of the European Variscides, it is characterized by large south-vergent thrust nappes and recumbent folds. For a decade, the lineations in metamorphic rocks were systematically and sometimes incorrectly used as kinematic indicators of nappe transport. In the French Massif Central the tectonometamorphic history is long and complex (430–310 Ma), and the lineations are related to different events and different kinds of deformation, including thrusting, folding, detachments, and strike-slip faulting. We attempt to analyze these different lineations in various parts of the Massif Central and relate them to the successive stages of crustal thickening and unroofing of the Variscan crust. In the southern part of the French Massif Central, most of the lineations are transport lineations related to the emplacement of large thrust nappes (350–310 Ma). In the northern and western part, most of the NW-SE–trending lineations are not related to nappes transported to the NW but to detachments during the unroofing and thinning of the thickened crust during the same time span.

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