Abstract

Fault rocks from the classic Rocky Mountain foreland fold-and-thrust belt in southwestern Canada were dated by Ar analysis of clay grain-size fractions. Using X-ray diffraction quantification of the detrital and authigenic component of each fraction, these determinations give ages for individual faults in the area (illite age analysis). The resulting ages cluster around 72 and 52 Ma (here called the Rundle and McConnell pulses, respectively), challenging the traditional view of gradual forward progression of faulting and thrust-belt history of the area. The recognition of spatially and temporally restricted deformation episodes offers field support for theoretical models of critically stressed wedges, which result in geologically reasonable strain rates for the area. In addition to regional considerations, this study highlights the potential of direct dating of shallow fault rocks for our understanding of upper-crustal kinematics and regional tectonic analysis of ancient orogens.

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