In several places in the Himalaya, there are debates over the location of and defining criteria for the South Tibetan detachment (STD) system. Here, we attempt to resolve this debate in central Bhutan by interpreting temperature, pressure, finite strain, and shear-sense data from an 11-km-thick structural transect through the Dang Chu region. Raman spectroscopy on carbonaceous material and garnet-biotite thermometry define a gradual, structurally upward decrease from 600–700 °C to 400–500 °C, and structural data indicate pure shear-dominant (Wm ≤0.4), layer-normal flattening strain and north-vergent shearing distributed through most of the section. Our data, when combined with published data from central Bhutan, define gradual, structurally upward cooling and an upright pressure gradient that is 1.2–2.4 times lithostatic distributed between 0 and 11 km above the Main Central thrust (MCT). Transport-parallel lengthening varies between ∼20%–110% at 2–5 km above the MCT and between ∼5%–55% at 5–11 km above the MCT, and north-vergent shearing is distributed between 2 and 11 km above the MCT. These data rule out the presence of a discrete, normal-sense shear zone and instead illustrate distributed structural thinning accommodated by north-vergent shearing. The strain data allow for ∼85 km of distributed north-vergent displacement, which may be related to differential southward transport during MCT emplacement. Alternatively, distributed shear may have been translated northward into the STD system in northern Bhutan. Timing constraints for shearing on the MCT and STD allow for both possibilities. Central Bhutan provides a case study for largescale, distributed structural thinning, and highlights the diverse range of processes that accommodate tectonic denudation during orogenesis.

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