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The Brevard fault zone is one of the largest faults in the Appalachians, extending from Alabama to Virginia. It had a very complex history of movement and reactivation, with three movement episodes: (1) Acadian-Neoacadian (403–345 Ma) movement accompanying the thermal peak of metamorphism and deformation with dextral, southwest-directed emplacement of the Inner Piedmont; (2) ductile dextral reactivation during the early Alleghanian (~280 Ma) under lower-greenschist-facies conditions; and (3) brittle dip-slip reactivation during the late Alleghanian (260 Ma?). The Brevard is comparable to other large faults with polyphase movement in other orogens worldwide, for example, the Periadriatic line in the Alps. Two types of far-traveled, fault-bounded horses have been identified in the Brevard fault zone in the Carolinas: (1) metasedimentary and granitoid horses located along the southeastern margin of the Alleghanian retrogressive ductile dextral Brevard fault zone in North and South Carolina; and (2) limestone/dolostone horses located along the brittle, late Alleghanian Rosman thrust, the contact between Blue Ridge and Brevard fault zone rocks in North and South Carolina. Field, stratigraphic, petrographic, and Sr-isotope data suggest the carbonate horses may be derived from Valley and Ridge carbonates in the Blue Ridge–Piedmont megathrust sheet footwall. The horses of metasedimentary and granitoid rocks occur along faults that cut klippen of the southwest-directed Inner Piedmont Acadian-Neoacadian Alto (Six Mile) allochthon. New laser ablation– inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) U-Pb zircon analyses from the metasedimentary mylonite component yield a detrital zircon suite dominated by 600 and 500 Ma zircons, and a second zircon population ranging from 2100 to 1300 Ma, with essentially no Grenvillian zircons, suggesting a peri-Gondwanan provenance. The granitoid component has a sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) age of 421 ± 14 Ma, similar to the ~430 Ma plutonic suite in northern Virginia and Maryland—a prominent component of the Cat Square terrane detrital zircon suite in the Carolinas.

Peri-Gondwanan Neoproterozoic to Cambrian Avalon–Carolina superterrane rocks are nowhere in contact with the Brevard fault zone at present erosion level. While these far-traveled metasedimentary and granitoid horses may have originated several hundred kilometers farther northeast in the central Appalachians, they could alternatively be remnants of Avalon–Carolina superterrane rocks that once formed the tectonic lid of the southwest-directed Neoacadian–early Alleghanian (Late Devonian–early Mississippian) orogenic channel formed during north-to-south zippered accretion of Avalon–Carolina. The remnant fossil subduction zone survives as the central Piedmont suture. Avalon–Carolina terrane rocks would have once covered the Inner Piedmont (and easternmost Blue Ridge) to depths of >20 km, and have since been eroded. Data from these two suites of horses provide additional insights into the mid- to late Paleozoic history and kinematics of the Brevard fault zone, Inner Piedmont, and Avalon–Carolina superterrane.

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong.

—John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887) “The Blind Men and the Elephant”

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