Abstract

An inverted metamorphic field gradient associated with a crustal-scale south-vergent thrust fault, the Main Central Thrust, has been recognized along the Himalaya for over 100 years. A major problem in Himalayan structural geology is that recent workers have mapped the Main Central Thrust within the Greater Himalayan Sequence high-grade metamorphic sequence along several different structural levels. Some workers map the Main Central Thrust as coinciding with a lithological contact, others as coincident with the kyanite isograd, up to 1–3 km structurally up-section into the Tertiary metamorphic sequence, without supporting structural data. Some workers recognize a Main Central Thrust zone of high ductile strain up to 2–3 km thick, bounded by an upper thrust, MCT-2 (= Vaikrita thrust), and a lower thrust, MCT-1 (= Munsiari thrust). Some workers define an ‘upper Lesser Himalaya’ thrust sheet that shows similar PT conditions to the Greater Himalayan Sequence. Others define the Main Central Thrust either on isotopic (Nd, Sr) differences, differences in detrital zircon ages, or as being coincident with a zone of young (<5 Ma) Th–Pb monazite ages. Very few papers incorporate any structural data in justifying the position of the Main Central Thrust. These studies, combined with recent quantitative strain analyses from the Everest and Annapurna Greater Himalayan Sequence, show that a wide region of high strain characterizes most of the Greater Himalayan Sequence with a concentration along the bounding margins of the South Tibetan Detachment along the top, and the Main Central Thrust along the base. We suggest that the Main Central Thrust has to be defined and mapped on strain criteria, not on stratigraphic, lithological, isotopic or geochronological criteria. The most logical place to map the Main Central Thrust is along the high-strain zone that commonly occurs along the base of the ductile shear zone and inverted metamorphic sequence. Above that horizon, all rocks show some degree of Tertiary Himalayan metamorphism, and most of the Greater Himalayan Sequence metamorphic or migmatitic rocks show some degree of pure shear and simple shear ductile strain that occurs throughout the mid-crustal Greater Himalayan Sequence channel. The Main Central Thrust evolved both in time (early–middle Miocene) and space from a deep-level ductile shear zone to a shallow brittle thrust fault.

You do not currently have access to this article.