P-T conditions of decompression of the limpopo high-grade terrane: Record from shear zones

C. A. Smit, D. D. Van Reenen, T. V. Gerya, L. L. Perchuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The Southern Marginal Zone of the late Archean Limpopo Belt of southern Africa is an example of a high-grade gneiss terrane in which both upper and lower crustal deformational processes can be studied. This marginal zone consists of large thrust sheets of complexly folded low-strain gneisses, bound by an imbricate system of kilometre-wide deep crustal shear zones characterized by the presence of high-strain gneisses ('primary straight gneisses'). These shear zones developed during the decompression stage of this high-grade terrane. Low- and high-strain gneisses both contain similar reaction textures that formed under different kinematic conditions during decompression. Evidence for the early M1/D1 metamorphic phase (>2690 Ma) is rarely preserved in low-strain gneisses as a uniform orientation of relict Al-rich orthopyroxene in the matrix and quartz and plagioclase inclusions in the cores of early (M1) Mg-rich garnet porphyroblasts. This rare fabric formed at > 820 °C and > 7.5 kbar. The retrograde M2/D2 metamorphic fabric (2630-2670 Ma) is well developed in high-strain gneisses from deep crustal shear zones and is microscopically recognized by the presence of reaction textures that formed synkinematically during shear deformation: M2 sigmoid-shaped reaction textures with oriented cordierite-orthopyroxene symplectites formed after the early M1 Mg-rich garnet porphyroblasts, and syn-decompression M2 pencil-shaped garnet with oriented inclusions of sillimanite and quartz formed after cordierite under conditions of near-isobaric cooling at 750-630 °C and 6-5 kbar. The symplectites and pencil-shaped garnet are oriented parallel to the shear fabric and in the stretching direction. Low-strain gneisses from thrust sheets show similar M2 decompression cooling and near-isobaric cooling reaction textures that formed within the same P-T range, but under low-strain conditions, as shown by their pseudo-idioblastic shapes that reflect the contours of completely replaced M1 garnet and randomly oriented cordieriteorthopyroxene symplectites. The presence of similar reaction textures reflecting low-strain conditions in gneisses from thrust sheets and high-strain conditions in primary straight gneisses suggests that most of the strain during decompression was partitioned into the bounding shear zones. A younger M3/D3 mylonitic fabric (<2637 Ma) in unhydrated mylonites is characterized by brittle deformation of garnet porphyroclasts and ductile deformation of the quartz-plagioclase-biotite matrix developed at < 600 °C, as the result of post-decompression shearing under epidote-amphibolite facies conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-268
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2001


  • Decompression
  • Fault rocks
  • High-grade terrane
  • P-T conditions
  • Shear zones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'P-T conditions of decompression of the limpopo high-grade terrane: Record from shear zones'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this