Review of the thermo-tectonic evolution of the Central Zone of the Limpopo Complex with implications for conflicting published geodynamic models

D. D. van Reenen, M. D. Clark, C. A. Smit, T. Tsunogae, O. Safonov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper addresses the credibility of published data utilised to underpin conflicting models recently proposed for the geodynamic evolution of the Limpopo Complex (LC), Southern Africa, in the Neoarchaean and Palaeoproterozoic. We are mainly focused on the tectonic and metamorphic processes that affected the Central Zone (CZ) of the LC, but also consider the significance of the timing of the thermo-tectonic interaction of the Southern Marginal Zone (SMZ) of the LC with the granite-greenstone terrane of the Kaapvaal Craton (KVC) at the position of the steep north-dipping Hout River Shear Zone (HRSZ). HRSZ-linked tectonism at the contact with the KVC is expressed as a narrow “hot-iron zone” directly dated at 2.72 to 2.69 Ga and developed in the footwall of the north-dipping HRSZ. HRSZ-linked tectonic activity intermittently continued up to 2.65 to 2.62 Ga with no structural-metamorphic or geochronological evidence that the SMZ and the rest of the KVC were affected by regional thermo-tectonic (orogenic) activity after ca. 2.68 Ga. The complementary evolution of the CZ at 2.72 to 2.62 Ga prior to emplacement at 2.612 Ga of the Bulai granitic pluton is expressed by two thermo-tectonic events, at 2.72 to 2.66 Ga and 2.65 to 2.62 Ga, respectively. The early 2.72 to 2.66 Ga event was associated with near-vertical exhumation of the CZ from a rising crustal-scale granulite diapir, accompanied by emplacement of steeply-dipping isoclinal folded and granoblastic-textured CZ granulites at the mid-crustal level (20 km depth). A moderately (~45°) northeast-directed shear deformational event, accompanied by extensive granitic diapirism, controlled the final emplacement of the CZ in the Neoarchaean at 2.65 to 2.62 Ga prior to intrusion of the 2.612 Ga Bulai pluton. This second tectono-thermal event is expressed by major sheared structural features that include mega-closed folds, mega-north-south trending folds, and the 29 km-wide southwest-northeast-trending and moderately southeast-dipping and northeast-verging Tshipise Straightening Zone (TSZ) that bounds the CZ in the south. The CZ was finally exhumed and emplaced at the upper crustal level 600 Myr later (at ca. 2.02 Ga) during a regional high-temperature Palaeoproterozoic thermal event associated with major near-vertical strike-slip shear zones that overprint Neoarchaean oblique slip shear zones that bound the CZ. Thermo-tectonic activity in the CZ that is associated with this mainly thermal event is recognised as discrete steeply-dipping narrow fabric-parallel shear zones dated at ca. 2.02 Ga that overprint older structures. A gravity-driven crustal-scale diapiric model is utilised to explain the evolution of the SMZ and CZ of the LC at 2.72 to 2.62 Ga during the Limpopo Orogeny. Data presented and discussed contradict alternative published models that propose a continent-continent collisional orogeny at 2.65 to 2.62 Ga involving the SMZ and KVC, followed 600 Myr later at 2.02 Ga by a transpressional orogeny associated with near-horizontal thrust tectonics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-372
Number of pages34
JournalSouth African Journal of Geology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


Dive into the research topics of 'Review of the thermo-tectonic evolution of the Central Zone of the Limpopo Complex with implications for conflicting published geodynamic models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this