Mesoarchean and Paleoproterozoic history of the Nimrod Complex, central Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica: Stratigraphic revisions and relation to the Mawson Continent in East Gondwana

John W. Goodge, C. Mark Fanning

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High-grade metamorphic and igneous rocks originally mapped as the Nimrod Group represent the only known crystalline basement of the East Antarctic shield exposed in the Transantarctic Mountains. SHRIMP U–Pb age data from zircon show that this assemblage preserves multiple geologic events spanning 2.5 b.y. of Archean to early Paleozoic history, culminating in thermomechanical reworking and active-margin magmatism during the Ross Orogeny. New age data from igneous and metamorphic rocks, as well as from detrital zircons in metasedimentary quartzites, refine the Mesoarchean to Paleoproterozoic history and indicate the need to abandon the stratigraphic term Nimrod Group and its five formations. In its place, we redefine only the igneous and high-grade gneissic parts of the assemblage as the Nimrod Complex, and all other metasedimentary rocks exposed in the Miller and Geologists ranges are included in a newly defined Argosy Schist. Within the Nimrod Complex, the oldest layered gneisses represent magmatic Mesoarchean crust formed between about 3150 and 3050 Ma. Correspondence of U–Pb zircon crystallization ages with whole-rock Sm–Nd model ages indicates formation from juvenile mantle melts. Magmatism at ca. 3100 Ma was followed closely by high-temperature metamorphism, recorded by zircon crystallization at 2955–2900 Ma, likely due to high advective heat transfer and/or thermal insulation of newly stabilized crust. Metaigneous units with ages of ca. 2500 Ma indicate a late Neoarchean period of anatexis and/or magmatism, although the geologic context for these events is uncertain. Gneissic, eclogitic and metaigneous rocks record an important period of deep-crustal metamorphism, thickening and magmatism between 1730 and 1700 Ma, referred to as the Nimrod Orogeny, that may have played an early role in assembly of East Gondwana cratons. A new lithodemic unit, Argosy Schist, consists of interlayered mica schist, quartzite, amphibolite, and calc-silicate schist. Quartzites from the schist unit have two distinctive detrital-zircon provenance characteristics; one type has populations that correlate with dated gneissic and metaigneous units of the Nimrod Complex, indicating a proximal provenance, whereas a second type has detrital zircon ages resembling those from Neoproterozoic Beardmore Group sandstones, indicating a common broader East Antarctic shield provenance. Their maximum depositional ages range widely from about 2000 to 900 Ma, leaving unresolved their age and geologic relationship to either the Nimrod Complex or Beardmore Group, yet they comprise a metasedimentary assemblage that is distinctive from the Nimrod Complex. Recent findings of Mesoarchean gneisses in the Gawler Craton, geochronology from Terre Adélie, and our new age data from the Nimrod Complex thus highlight the importance of ca. 3.1, 2.5 and 1.7 Ga events in formation of the composite East Antarctic shield adjacent to the modern Transantarctic Mountains. Correlative crustal units may extend to the southern Prince Charles Mountains and Shackleton Range. Collectively, this extensive crustal province, referred to as the Mawson Continent, represents an elongate belt of primary Mesoarchean crust that experienced major reworking at ca. 2.5 and 1.7 Ga. The latter period includes both high- and low-P/T petrologic signatures, providing evidence of crustal thickening and magmatism that may signify collisional processes related to Paleoproterozoic cratonal amalgamation during formation of the Nuna supercontinent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-271
Number of pages30
JournalPrecambrian Research
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Antarctica
  • Craton
  • Geochronology
  • Nimrod Complex
  • Zircon


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