The nappe rule stresses that imbrication emplaces nappes with higher metamorphic grade above those with lower grade. This means that the overriding nappes must be exhuming during nappe stacking; otherwise metamorphic grade would increase structurally downwards. The high-grade metamorphic internides of many orogens are characterized by a pervasive nappe-emplacement-related subhorizontal foliation indicative of vertical ductile shortening (thinning). By quantifying finite strain in the Gran Paradiso Massif, Italian Alps, we show that vertical ductile thinning associated with a nappe-emplacement-related subhorizontal foliation caused sufficient exhumation of the overriding nappes and can thus explain the occurrence of higher-grade rocks above lower-grade ones.

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