Tectonometamorphic evolution of the Himalayan metamorphic core between the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, central Nepal

J. C. Vannay, K. V. Hodges

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273 Scopus citations


The metamorphic core of the Himalaya in the Kali Gandaki valley of central Nepal corresponds to a 5-km-thick sequence of upper amphibolite facies metasedimentary rocks. This Greater Himalayan Sequence (GHS) thrusts over the greenschist to lower amphibolite facies Lesser Himalayan Sequence (LHS) along the Lower Miocene Main Central Thrust (MCT), and it is separated from the overlying low-grade Tethyan Zone (TZ) by the Annapurna Detachment. Structural, petrographic, geothermobarometric and thermochronological data demonstrate that two major tectonometamorphic events characterize the evolution of the GHS. The first (Eohimalayan) episode included prograde, kyanite-grade metamorphism, during which the GHS was buried at depths greater than c. 35 km. A nappe structure in the lowermost TZ suggests that the Eohimalayan phase was associated with underthrusting of the GHS below the TZ. A c. 37 Ma 40Ar/39Ar hornblende date indicates a Late Eocene age for this phase. The second (Neohimalayan) event corresponded to a retrograde phase of kyanite-grade recrystallization, related to thrust emplacement of the GHS on the LHS. Prograde mineral assemblages in the MCT zone equilibrated at average T=880 K (610 °C) and P=940 MPa (=35 km), probably close to peak of metamorphic conditions. Slightly higher in the GHS, final equilibration of retrograde assemblages occurred at average T=810 K (540 °C) and P=650 MPa (=24 km), indicating re-equilibration during exhumation controlled by thrusting along the MCT and extension along the Annapurna Detachment. These results suggest an earlier equilibration in the MCT zone compared with higher levels, as a consequence of a higher cooling rate in the basal part of the GHS during its thrusting on the colder LHS. The Annapurna Detachment is considered to be a Neohimalayan, synmetamorphic structure, representing extensional reactivation of the Eohimalayan thrust along which the GHS initially underthrust the TZ. Within the upper GHS, a metamorphic discontinuity across a mylonitic shear zone testifies to significant, late- to post-metamorphic, out-of-sequence thrusting. The entire GHS cooled homogeneously below 600-700 K (330-430 °C) between 15 and 13 Ma (Middle Miocene), suggesting a rapid tectonic exhumation by movement on late extensional structures at higher structural levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-656
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • <sup>40</sup>Ar/<sup>39</sup>Ar geochronology, geothermobarometry
  • Himalayan metamorphism
  • Main Central Thrust
  • Synorogenic extension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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