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Unusual lithospheric structure and evolutionary pattern of the cratonic segments of the South Indian shield


The southern Indian shield, characterised by several prominent geological and geophysical features, can be divided into three distinct tectonic segments: Western Dharwar craton (WDC), Eastern Dharwar craton (EDC) and Southern Granulite terrain (SGT). With the exception of WDC, the entire crust beneath EDC and SGT has been remobilized several times since their formation during the mid- to late Archeans (3.0–2.5 Ga). In order to understand the evolutionary history of these segments, a multiparametric geological and geophysical study has been made which indicates that the south Indian shield, characterized by a reduced heat flow of 23–38 mW/m2 has a much thinner (88–163 km) lithosphere compared to 200–450 km found in other global shields. In the EDC-SGT terrain, high velocity upper crust is underlain by considerably low mantle velocity with a thick high conductive/low velocity zone sandwiched at mid crustal level. Our study reveals that the entire EDC region is underlain by granulite facies rocks with a density of about 2.85 to 3.16 g/cm3 at a shallow depth of about 8 km in the southern part and at even shallower depth of about 1 to 2 km below the Hyderabad granitic region in the north. Cratonic mantle lithosphere beneath EDC may contain a highly conductive, anisotropic and hydrous metasomatic zone between the depth of 90 and 105 km where estimated temperatures are in the range of 850–975°C. It is likely that before the early Proterozoic, the entire south Indian shield was a coherent crustal block which subsequently got segmented due to persistent plume-induced episodic thermal reactivations during the last 2.7 Ga. These reactivations led to self destruction of cratonic roots giving rise to negative buoyancy at deeper levels which may have been responsible for crustal remobilisations, followed by regional uplifting and erosion of once substantially thick greenstone belts. Consequently, the crustal column beneath the EDC has become highly evolved and now corresponds closely to SGT at depth.


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Correspondence to P. K. Agrawal.

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Key words

  • Indian shield
  • lithosphere
  • temperature
  • granulites
  • Eastern Dharwar craton
  • velocity structure
  • tectonothermal events