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T h e D h a r w a r craton, s o u t h e r n India, and its Late A r c h a e a n

plate t e c t o n i c setting: current interpretations and



* Earth Resources Centre, University, Exeter EX~ 4QE, UK
120/~5(A) III Block, Thyagarajanagar, Bangalore 560 028, India
t Department of Mines and Geology, Government of Karnataka, Bangalore 560 027, India

In spite of detailed geological investigations of the Dharwar craton since the 1890s, its principal
lithological units, structure and chronology remain contentious. Important new work on lithostrati-
graphy, basin development, structure, geochemistry and geochronology has led to wide-ranging
speculation on the Late Archaean plate tectonic setting. Much of the speculation is based on
uniformitarian models which contrast with a recent proposal that the evolution of the craton was
controlled by gravity-driven processes with no crustal shortening.

1. T h e D h a r w a r c r a t o n The craton can be subdivided into two principal

parts (figure 1) which are separated by a steep belt of
The Late Archaean Dharwar craton (figure 1), in the mylonites, c l - l . 5 k m wide, trending approximately
sense of Ramakrishnan (1993), is an important part of N-S or NW-SE (Chadwick et al 1989). The belt of
the collage of Archaean and Proterozoic terrains in mylonites has been interpreted as a thrust by many
Peninsular India. Areas east and south of the craton workers on the grounds of a relatively shallow,
are characterized by structures, metamorphism and easterly dipping reflector identified by Kaila et al
igneous bodies related to the Pan-African assembly of (1979), but there is no obvious curvature along the
Gondwana, but the interior of the craton largely length of its outcrop to suggest that the steep mylo-
escaped significant Pan-African overprinting. The nites are part of a listric structure. Shallow and
northern margin of the craton is concealed by steeply plunging linear fabrics in the mylonites
Proterozoic sedimentary rocks and the Deccan lavas, (Chadwick et al 1989) are ambiguous in terms of the
whereas the east is overlain by the Meso-Neoproter- principal displacement direction within the belt.
ozoic Cuddapah basin. Late Archaean metamorphism
in much of the western part of the craton varies from
LT greenschist to amphibolite facies in contrast with
2. W e s t e r n p a r t o f t h e c r a t o n
HT greenschist to amphibolite facies in the eastern
part which is related to the emplacement of volumi-
2.1 Peninsular Gneiss and the Sargur Group
nous granite. Effects and possible causes of Late
Archaean granulite facies metamorphism in the West of the mylonite belt the craton is characterized
extreme south of the craton have been reviewed by by Late Archaean volcanic and sedimentary rocks
Hansen et al (1995), among others. This contribution (Dharwar Supergroup; Swami Nath et al 1976) that
comprises a brief review of recent findings in the were deposited in the period c2900-2600 Ma (Taylor
Dharwar craton north of the terrain affected by et a11984; Nutman et a11996; Kumar et a11996) on a
Archaean granulite facies metamorphism. sialic basement of orthogneisses and granodiorites

Keywords. Dharwar craton; Late Archaean; plate tectonics; Dharwar batholith.

Proc. Indian Acad. Sci. (Earth Planet. Sci.), 106, No. 4, December 1997, pp. 249-258
9 Printed in India 249
250 Brian Chadwick et al

Taylor et al 1984; Bhaskar Rao et al 1991; Naha et al

1993; Peucat et a11993). Whereas much of the Penin-
sular Gneiss is part of a tonalite-trondhjemite-
granodiorite suite whose precursors had short periods
of crustal residence (Bhaskar Rao ct al 1983; Monrad
1983; Stroh et al 1983; Jayaram et al 1983; among
others), its tectonic evolution prior to c2900Ma is
poorly understood.
The gneisses include tracts of older volcanic and
sedimentary rocks and stratiform gabbro-anorthosite
complexes (Sargur Group; Swami Nath et al 1976).
SHRIMP and single grain evaporation ages of zircon
(Nutman et a11992; Ramakrishnan et a11994; Peucat
et al 1995) show that the Sargur Group has an age of
c2960-3300 Ma, and it includes detrital zircon grains
as old as 3580 Ma. It is likely that the Sargur Group
includes a number of different tracts of supracrustal
rocks of different ages. The Sargur Group includes
banded iron formations, fuchsite quartzites of detrital
origin (Chadwick et al 1986; Argast 1995), metape-
lites, basaltic amphibolites, metaperidotites and stra-
tiform gabbro-anorthosites: the depositional, volcanic
and tectonic setting remains unclear.
Deformation of the Sargur Group in the Hole-
narsipur belt (figure 1) took place in three distinct
Figure 1. Simplified geological map of the Late Archaean periods (Chadwick et a11978). Bouhallier et al (1993)
Dharwar craton (ornamented) in southern Peninsular India: argued that the structure of this belt was controlled
DS: Dharwar Supergroup; PG: Peninsular Gneiss (basement by diapiric emplacement of the adjacent components
to the Dharwar Supergroup); H: Holenarsipur schist belt, of the Peninsular Gneiss in amphibolite facies condi-
> c.3000Ma; m: steep belt of mylonites (see text); black: Late tions and subsequent sinistral transcurrent shearing in
Archaean volcano-sedimentary schist belts in the eastern part
of the craton (Hu: Hutti; K: Kolar; R: Ramagiri; S: Sandur); greenschist facies conditions. The diapiric emplace-
DB: Dharwar batholith; g: Late Archaean granulite facies ment appears to have taken place prior to c2900 Ma,
metamorphism; KA: Kibbanahalli Arm (see text). Blank areas whereas the sinistral shearing appears to be Late
are mostly Proterozoic and younger rocks, including Archaean. Chardon et al (1996) extended the diapiric
CB: Cuddapah basin; PSZ: Proterozoic shear zones; PAT: model to structures in the Peninsular Gneiss and
terrain dominated by Pan-African phenomena. B: Bangalore;
C: Chitradurga; Ma: Madras; My: Mysore; T: Trivandrum. Sargur rocks which underlie the Dharwar Supergroup
in the Kibbanahalli Arm (figure 1) west of the Chitra-
durga schist belt. They noted that orthogneisses are
which are known collectively as the Peninsular Gneiss. generally located in domes, whereas Sargur supra-
Many workers have included the younger Archaean crustal rocks are mainly found in intervening basins.
plutonic rocks in the eastern part of the craton as part This distribution contrasts with the common inter-
of the Peninsular Gneiss following W F Smeeth who sheeting of the gneisses and Sargur rocks elsewhere in
coined the term nearly a century ago. Because of the the western part of the craton, the intersheeting
confusions that have arisen with its application to having been due principally to intrusion of the
rocks with a wide range of ages (see Naha et al 1993; supracrustal rocks by precursors of the gneisses. The
Srinivasan and Naha 1996, for recent examples), intersheeted relationship suggests that a significant
Radhakrishna and Vaidyanadhan (1994) proposed sub-horizontal regime of plutonic intrusion and
that the term be abandoned. They suggested that the deformation characterized much of the Peninsular
term Older Gneiss Complex be used for gneisses older Gneiss before the generation of upright structures
than 3000 Ma, and Younger Gneiss Complex for those like those described by Bouhallier et al (1993) and
c2600 Ma. Because the younger gneisses are a high- Chardon et al (1996).
strain component of the Dharwar batholith which is
discussed later, we recommend that the term Penin-
2.2 Dha~war Supergroup
sular Gneiss be retained, but restricted to gneisses
older than c2900 Ma. Although the unconformable relationship between the
The basement orthogneisses and low-strain plutonic Dharwar Supergroup and its basement of Peninsular
rocks in the western part of the craton have ages in Gneiss is disputed by some workers (Naha et al 1993;
the range c2900-3300Ma (Beckinsale et al 1980; Srinivasan and Naha 1996), the field evidence south of
The D h a r w a r craton in southern India 251

Bababudan, north of Sigegudda, west of the Chitra- The second stage of basin development saw the
durga belt and on the west and east of the accumulation of alluvial and shallow marine fans,
Kibbanahalli Arm points overwhelmingly to an uncon- debris flows, quartz arenites, greywackes and local
formable relationship which shows that deposition of stromatolitic limestones, with sporadic basic and
the Dharwar Supergroup did not begin until cooling, acid volcanism. The coarse polymict conglomerates
uplift and peneplanation of the basement had taken in the alluvial fans and debris flows include not
place after c3000Ma (Swami Nath et al 1976). The only crowded clasts of Dharwar metabasalt, gabbro,
age of the Dharwar Supergroup is constrained to the banded iron formation and quartzite, but also
period c2900-2600 Ma on the grounds of the age of its orthogneisses which show that areas of basement
basement, intrusion of the Chitradurga Granite were elevated and eroded during basin development.
(2605 • 18 Ma; Taylor et a11984) and a Pb/Pb meta- The final stage was marked by deposition of a
morphic recrystallization age of 2639 • 32 Ma of lime- widespread, but relatively thin, banded iron formation
stones from various parts of the Dharwar stratigraphy which was followed by thick fine-grained greywackes
(Russell et al 1996). SHRIMP zircon age data from with intercalations of chert and volcanic rocks.
acid volcanic rocks at a relatively high stratigraphic The mixed-mode basin development and volcanic
level indicate melt crystallization at 2614• facies (Bhaskar Rao and Drury 1982; Drury 1983)
(Nutman et al 1996), whereas well constrained arrays suggest an incipient back-arc or an active continental
of Sm-Nd data interpreted as isochrons by Kumar margin, with similarities in the Mesozoic-Cenozoic
et al (1996) show that some of the oldest basic setting of New Zealand and the western United States
volcanic rocks in the supergroup are 2911 • (Chadwick et al 1992).
old and other volcanic suites low in the stratigraphic Interpretation of the Late Archaean structure of the
sequence are 2848 i 70Ma and 2747 • 15Ma old. Dharwar Supergroup and its sialic base~nent is
Isotopic whole rock ages of 2565 + 28Ma (Pb/Pb; controversial (Mukhopadhyay 1986). Naqvi (1973)
Taylor et a11984) and 2520 • 62 Ma (Rb-Sr; Bhaskar and Naha and Chatterjee (1982) took the view that
Rao et al 1992) for volcanic rocks high in the banded iron formations host early, large-scale isoclinal
stratigraphy and other younger ages for rocks else- folds that are refolded by younger structures. Drury
where in the stratigraphy (2240 • 50 Ma, Bhaskar Rao and Holt (1980) and Drury et al (1984) took a wider
et al 1992; 2439• Srinivasan et al 1992; view in the sense that they believed that the Dharwar
2480 • 31 Ma, Naha et al 1993) appear to be effects Supergroup is characterized by early E-W recumbent
of unspecified metamorphic disturbance. folds and thrusts propagated from the south which
Facies distributions and well-preserved primary were refolded by movements in wide N-S or NW-SE
depositional and volcanic structures in the Dharwar shear zones. However, their claims of large-scale
Supergroup in the central part of the western half of recumbent folds" are not supported by stratigraphic
the craton show that it was deposited in mixed-mode data. In contrast, Chadwick et al (1981a, 1985b, 1988,
basins whose evolution was probably controlled by 1989, 1992) interpreted the Dharwar schist belts in
transpression (Chadwick et al 1989, 1992). Future terms of one principal phase of deformation with
detailed stratigraphic studies combined with precise superimposed younger folds related to transcurrent
isotopic dating are likely to reveal that the supergroup sinistral displacements. Moreover, Mukhopadhyay
formed in a series of independent basins. and Ghosh (1983); Mukhopadhyay and Baral (1985)
Chadwick et al (1992) proposed that the Dharwar and Naha et al (1995) believed that the principal
Supergroup accumulated in three stages. The first was structures are the result of two distinct periods of
characterized by crustal extension which led to prolific deformation which gave rise to broadly parallel
eruption of basalts, emplacement of sub-volcanic upright folds or refolded recumbent folds.
gabbros, and deposition of shallow marine sands, i a h a et al (1986) and Naha et al (1990) made a
carbonaceous muds, volcaniclastic sediments and more controversial claim that the ductile migmatitic
banded iron formations (with major economic depos- structures in the Peninsular Gneiss of the basement
its of iron in the Kudremukh area). Koma~iites are a were contemporaneous with folds in the Dharwar
very minor component in the Dharwar Supergroup Supergroup: they referred to this relationship as a
compared with supracrustal belts of similar age in "unity of structures". However, their view is at
other continents. The basal quartz-pebble conglomer- variance with the fact that the low-grade Dharwar
ate at the unconformity with the Peninsular Gneiss Supergroup rests unconformably on folds that were
basement has been interpreted as fluvial by Srinivasan generated during high-grade migmatitic events in
and Ojakangas (1986) and Farreddudin et al (1988), the orthogneisses of its basement. They argued that
but shallow marine by Chadwick et al (1985a). The the basement was extensively remobilized during
presence of an unambiguous sialic basement to the deformation of the Dharwar Supergroup and the
Dharwar Supergroup is inconsistent with proposals by unconformities were 'blurred' (Naha et al 1991). The
Naqvi et al (1988), among others, that parts of the alleged blurring is inconsistent with the sharp uncon-
supergroup had a simatic basement. formities mapped by Chadwick et al (1981b, 1985a);
252 B r i a n Chadwick et al

Viswanatha et al (1982) and Venkata Dasu et al of steep, N-S shear zones which ramify through
(1991). The problem at the heart of the concept of the western part of the craton (see, for example,
unity of structures is compounded by the fact that, Chadwick ct al figure 3, 1988; Bouhallier et al figure 9,
following W F Smeeth, the definition of Peninsular 1993).
Gneiss used by Naha et al (1990), and more recently
by Srinivasan and Naha (1996), embraces orthogneis-
ses (> c2900 Ma) which are basement to the Dharwar 3. E a s t e r n p a r t o f t h e c r a t o n
Supergroup in the western part of the craton and (Dharwar batholith)
others which are high-strain components of the youn-
get Dharwar batholith (< c2750Ma) that comprises East of the steep belt of mylonites the Dharwar craton
the eastern part of the craton (Chadwick et al 1996). is distinctly different. It is dominated by voluminous
Recent work by Chadwick et al (1989, 1992) has granites, granodiorites and their high-strain gneissic
revealed that the deformation in the Dharwar Super- equivalents, c2750-2550 Ma (Balakrishnan ct al 1990;
group can be explained in terms of NE-SW crustal Friend and Nutman 1991; Krogstad et al 1991, 1995;
shortening which led to ductile folding and localized Peucat et al 1989, 1993; Subba Rao et al 1992;
thrusting verging SW. In contrast, the gneissic base- Zacharaiah et a11995; Nutman et a11996). They host
meat deformed in a less pervasive way in myriad shear a series of linear and irregular schist belts with sedi-
zones and narrow zones of mylonite. These shear mentary and volcanic rocks that have many lithologi-
zones and belts of mylonite are not parts of post- cal aspects in common with the Dharwar Supergroup
Dharwar lineaments as claimed by Srinivasan and in the west. Limited isotopic ages indicate that
Naha (1996). The NE-SW shortening was accompa- volcanism took place in the period c2750-2650 Ma
nied and outlasted by sinistral displacements on N-S (Balakrishnan ct al 1990; Zacharaiah et. al 1995;
and NW-SE wrench faults. The common occurrence of Nutman et al 1996). P b / P b data show that meta-
carbonate in the basement shear zones suggests C Q - morphic recrystallization of the limestones in the
rich fluids played a prominent role in the deformation. Sandur schist belt took place 2475 + 65 Ma ago: the #1
Emplacement of the Chitradurga Granite (c2600 Ma; value of 8.50 contrasts with that of 7.79 of the lime-
Taylor et al 1984) into the Dharwar Supergroup and stones in western Karnataka (Russell et al 1996). The
its basement gneisses appears to have taken place difference in the timing of the metamorphic crystal-
during a late stage of the deformation in the west of lization in western and eastern Karnataka suggests
the craton. Two other bosses of comparable Late that regional heating related to granite emplacement
Archaean granite intrude the basement gneisses in the east of the craton outlasted metamorphic effects
further south (Rogers 1988). in the west. The difference in #1 values suggests a
An alternative view of the structure of the western more evolved sdu~ce for lead in the east of the craton
part of the Dharwar craton has emerged from the compared with the west, but the nature of the sources
interpretation of the Kibbanahalli Arm (figure 1) by is enigmatic.
Chardon et al (1996). They reported that the basal Whereas there are lithological and chronological
rocks in the complex synclinal structure of the similarities between the Late Archaean volcanic and
Kibbanahalli Arm constitute a dScollement with kine- sedimentary rocks in the western and eastern parts of
matic indicators indicating convergence of slip direc- the craton, no precise correlations have been made so
tions towards the syncline axis. They proposed that far. Moreover, there are no reports to date of extensive
this convergence could only be explained by sagduc- areas of orthogneisses as old as the c2900-3300Ma
tion (after Goodwin and Smith 1980), i.e. an effect of Peninsular Gneiss basement which underlies the
vertical movements consequent on gravitational Dharwar Supergroup in the west.
instability driven by deep-seated thermal variations.
Chardon and his co-workers maintained that vertical 3.1 Late A r c h a e a n schist belts
movements related to gravitational instability were
predominant in the development of the Dharwar Critical new work by Matin and Mukhopadhyay
craton and they rejected uniformitarian models based (1987) and Mukhopadhyay and Matin (1993) in the
on crustal shortening and orogenic collapse. There Sandur schist belt, a major tract with the largest
are, however, difficulties with a non-uniformitarian stratigraphic sequence of Late Archaean volcanic and
explanation for the relative elevation of the numerous sedimentary rocks in the eastern part of the craton,
segments of basement in the western part of the raised serious questions about previous interpreta-
craton, for example in the tract of the Dharwar tions of the stratigraphy and structure. Subsequently,
Supergroup between Bababudan and Ranibennur Chadwick et al (1996) showed that its lithostratigra-
(Chadwick et al 1992). We favour a uniformitarian phy youngs consistently from SW to NE and is c35 km
mechanism, namely, elevation of basement segments thick. They attributed this thickness to thrust stack-
as a consequence of NE-SW shortening and transpres- ing, although thrusts are not well exposed and have
sion related to strike-slip movements in the plethora been inferred mostly from gross regional relationships.
The D h a r w a r craton in southern India 253

Claims by Manikyamba and Naqvi (1996) that the opinion that the belt comprised two distinct oceanic
western part of the Sandur schist belt has been suites (Krogstad et al 1989).
overridden by its eastern part are not substantiated
by their field data. Geochemical and isotopic age
3.2 The Dharwar batholith
data from amphibolites in the Ramagiri schist belt
(Zacharaiah et al 1995, 1996) suggest that thrust The voluminous plutonic rocks which surround and
thickening may have occurred in other schist belts in intrude the schist belts in the eastern part of the
the east of the craton. Large-scale, steeply plunging, craton are dominated by granites s.s., granodiorites,
upright, synclinal sheath folds with deep cusps monzonites and diorites of the calc-alkaline suite.
between steep wedges or elongate domes of granite Most were emplaced as steep wedges or elongate
are also an important component of the structure of domes trending N-S or NW-SE: one of the larger
the Sandur schist belt (Chadwick et a11996). Parts of plutons of granodiorite is up to 20 km wide and at
these folds were excised during the NE-SW thrusting. least 100 km long. In addition to late swarms of pale
Our unpublished field data also suggest that the Hutti pink granite dykes trending NW-SE that cut plutons
schist belt north of Sandur has a steep cuspate of granite s.l. and granodiorite, we have found that
structure. mafic dykes of the appinite suite (in the sense of
The irregular outcrop patterns of the Sandur and Pitcher 1993) are also locally abundant. Many of the
Hutti belts contrast with most of the other belts, appinite dykes are podded or folded, but their mixed
including Kushtagi, Ramagiri, Kadiri and Kolar, which melt compositions and discordances with magmatic
have a linear N-S outcrop with steep dips and widths of and tectonic fabrics in their host rocks are clearly
only a few kms. Recognition of the lithostratigraphy in evident.
these linear belts is difficult because of poor exposure, Similar orientations of tectonic fabrics in the schist
intense deformation and lack of unambiguous way up belts and the magmatic and tectonic fabrics in the
criteria. The Hutti, Ramagiri and Kolar belts host plutonic rocks indicate that many were emplaced
economic deposits of gold in steep shear zones. syntectonically, but some granites are post-tectonic,
Most of the schist belts include greywaekes (with e.g. the Joga granite in the north of the Sandur schist
economic deposits of manganese in the Sandur belt), belt (Chadwick et al 1996). Steep, magmatic planar
polymiet conglomerates (with clasts of banded ferru- fabrics and relatively shallow mineral lineations and
ginous chert, metabasalt and granite: some of the elongation of mafic enclaves are parallel to C fabrics
boulders of granite in the conglomerates in the Kolar (Cisaillement, after Berth~ et al 1979) and mineral
belt are up to 1.5 m in size), banded iron formations lineations in persistent N-S or NW-SE belts of
(with major economic deposits of iron in the Sandur mylonites within the plutonie rocks: S - C fabrics and
belt), and rare orthoquartzites (Sandur, Hutti and feldspar a-textures indicate predominantly sinistral
Ramagiri belts) and stromatolitic limestones (Sandur displacements. These relationships are in accordance
belt): the orthoquartzites and limestones indicate with progressive emplacement of steep wedges of
shallow marine conditions. The sedimentary rocks plutonic rocks during regional sinistral transpression.
are interbedded with locally voluminous pillow- The generally steep, sheet or wedge form of the
structured metabasalts, gabbros and ultramafic plutonic rocks contrasts sharply with the predomi-
schists. Acid volcanic rocks are widespread but nance of shallow reflectors in the seismic profile
volumetrically subordinate. Acid volcanic rocks, recorded by Kaila et al (1979), but the reason for the
polymiet conglomerates and sheets of mylonitized contrast is unclear.
granite in the Kolar belt were described together as The scale, distribution and composition of the
the Champion Gneiss by early workers: this unfortu- plethora of Late Archaean plutonic rocks in the
nate misnomer was applied by Smeeth (1915) to many eastern part of the Dharwar craton led Chadwick et al
other parts of the Late Archaean volcanic and sedi- (1996) to propose that they be described as the
mentary rocks of the Dharwar craton. The volcano- Dharwar batholith (figure 1). The batholith has a
sedimentary association in the Sandur schist belt western transition zone dominated by anatectic
accumulated in mainly shallow marine environments granites (e2500Ma; Friend and Nutman 1991) that
in a setting comparable with that of mixed-mode were derived from Peninsular Gneiss, c2900 Ma. The
basins, i.e., with variable intra- and extra-basinal transition zone passes eastwards into mainly juvenile
uplift and subsidence (Chadwick et al 1996). The granites and granodiorites (Krogstad et a11991, 1995;
chemical composition of the volcanic rocks is consis- Peucat et al 1989, 1993; Bhaskar Rao et al 1992).
tent with an intra-are setting (Hanuma Prasad et al Accretion of the batholith took place as a series of
1997). We proposed that the other schist belts are also anatectic and juvenile additions in the form of steep
relics of other intra-arc basins (Chadwick et al 1996), wedges and sheets, but much of the chronology of
a view supported by Krogstad et al (1995) with their pluton emplacement is unclear. Detailed field and
new interpretation of an arc setting for the volcanic isotopic age studies are necessary to resolve the
rocks of the Kolar belt in contrast with their previous outstanding issues of the accretion chronology.
254 Brian Chadwick et al

3.3 The Closepet Granite - A m i s n o m e r subduction beneath the Dharwar craton gave rise to
Andean margin and island arc magmatism. Like
Many maps of the Dharwar craton show a narrow
Newton (1990), Srinivasan and Naha (1993) took
linear belt of granites called the Closepet Granite
the view that the trend of the original basins of the
which is alleged to form the boundary between the
Dharwar Supergroup in the western part of the craton
western and eastern halves. The term was introduced
was E-W. This orientation led them to speculate that
by W F Smeeth early in this century (see Smeeth a Late Archaean volcanic arc which was related to
1915), but it has never been defined unambiguously.
southerly subduction is buried beneath the Deccan
The Closepet Granite is a misnomer because it
basalts. They believed that its associated intra-arc
contains a wide range of plutonic rocks, including
and back-arc basins are represented by the Dharwar
anatectic and juvenile components and their high-
Supergroup south of the Deccan basalts. This model is
strain equivalents. Its boundaries on many maps,
consistent with the geochemistry of the metabasalts
especially in its alleged northern part, do not coincide
(Bhaskar Rao and Drury 1982; Drury 1983), but it is
with those between different polyphase varieties of
inconsistent with the SW vergence of folds in the
granites. On the grounds of these inconsistencies,
supergroup (Chadwick et al 1991) and the site of
we have recommended that the term be abandoned
Dharwar batholith accretion in the east of the eraton.
(Chadwick et al 1996). We are not in favour of the
Chadwick et al (1996) proposed that the two-fold
term Closepet batholith (Allen et al 1986; Jayananda
division of the Dharwar craton into the western part
et al 1995) because it is ill-defined and the plutonic
comprising the basins of the Dharwar Supergroup and
rocks in the linear belt do not warrant special
their sialic basement and the eastern part comprising
distinction from the myriad other components of the
the Dharwar batholith and its Late Archaean schist
Dharwar batholith.
belts is consistent with a convergent plate ~etting. The
western part represents a continental margin (fore-
land) with marginal or back-arc basins represented by
4. Late A r c h a e a n plate tectonic setting the Dharwar Supergroup, whereas the eastern part
o f the D h a r w a r craton represents a batholith and intra-arc basins (the schist
belts) which accreted against the continental margin.
Various plate tectonic models have been proposed for The subduction direction is unclear. The limited
the craton. Among the earliest was the thickening evidence of thrust thickening from NE to SW in the
model of Drury et al (1984) which involved northerly Sandur schist belt (Chadwick et al 1996) and the SW
subduction and stacking of swathes of supracrustal vergenee of structures in the Dharwar Supergroup
rocks and basement slices verging to the south in the north of Honnali (Chadwick et al 1991) suggest that
high-grade area in the south of the craton. Con- subduction was' broadly from west to east. On the
temporaneous effects in the north of the craton were other hand, the back-arc or continental margin setting
believed to include N-verging nappes and backthrusts. of the Dharwar Supergroup suggested by the
Later NS shear zones were interpreted as effects of geochemistry of its volcanic rocks (Bhaskar Rao and
irregularities in the accreting slices. Although this Naqvi 1978; Anantha Iyer and Vasudev 1979; Drury
thickening model explains the granulite facies meta- 1983), and the spatial setting of anatectic granites in
morphism in the south of the craton, it is inconsistent the foreland (Chitradurga granite; Taylor et al 1988)
not only with the regional structure, but also the site and the western part of the Dharwar batholith
of batholith accretion in the east of the craton. (Friend and Nutman 1991) favour east to west
Krogstad et al (1989) also linked the high-grade subduction. The ambiguity in the subduetion direc-
metamorphism in the southeast of the craton with tion is complicated by transcurrent sinistral displace-
collision of continental lithospheric plates and shear- ments in the foreland and the batholith which indicate
ing along a suture zone marked by the Kolar schist an oblique component to the convergent system.
belt which was believed to include intervening oceanic Published isotopic age data from the schist belts
material on the grounds of the geochemistry of the and widely separated parts of the Dharwar batholith
amphibolites. Krogstad et al (1995) presented addi- suggest that granite emplacement took place in the
tional isotopic and geochemical data to substantiate period c2750-2550Ma, whereas volcanic rocks were
their claim that the Kolar schist belt includes a N-S erupted in the period c2750-2650 Ma. Although the
suture. Their latest view is that the suture separates age data are scanty, they suggest that accretion of the
gneisses generated c2630-2550 Ma ago in a continen- Dharwar batholith and its intra-arc basins took place
tal magmatic arc to the west from gneisses that for- for at least c150 Ma. The prolonged thermal activity
med c2530 Ma ago in an evolved island arc to the east. may have been the consequence of basalt underplating
Newton (1990) suggested that the original Kolar that was associated with either a mantle plume or
basin had an E-W strike before it was involved in N-S ridge subduction like that described, for example, by
plate convergence analogous to the model of Drury Haeussler et al (1995). This thermal setting is in
et al (1984). Newton concluded that south to north accord with Jayananda et al (1995) who attributed
The D h a r w a r craton in southern India 255

the Late Archaean granulite facies metamorphism in need for further detailed work on lithostratigraphy,
the southern part of the craton to thickened crust and basin analysis, structure (including seismic profiles),
higher heat flow, perhaps related to a mantle plume. geochemistry and geochronology.
Basalt underplating related to a mantle plume or
subducted ridge is also in accord with the chemical
composition of volcanic rocks from the Sandur schist Acknowledgements
belt reported by H a num a Prasad et al (1997).
Choukroune et al (1995) took an extreme view of the Professor K Naha ventured into the Archaean geology
influence of mantle plumes in the tectonic evolution of of southern India in the 1980s, relatively late in his
the Dharwar craton in particular, and the Archaean in career. He will be remembered primarily for his claim,
general. Their argument was based on the predomi- with his principal co-worker, R. Srinivasan, that all of
nance of vertical structures affecting large volumes of the rocks in the Dharwar craton had experienced the
crust and the alleged absence of evidence of major same chronology of Archaean deformation which was
thrusting in Archaean cratons. In well-exposed high- manifested in what he called "uni t y of structures".
grade Archaean terrains such as southern West This claim was highly contentious although it had a
Greenland, for example, there is abundant evidence positive outcome in the sense that it prompted a closer
of thrusts and fold nappes older than the widespread examination of the data. We remember Prof. Naha
upright structures (Chadwick and N ut m an 1979; with affection as a good friend and a stimulating
Nutman et al 1989; Chadwick 1990). Whereas parts scientific colleague.
of the Peninsular Gneiss basement to the Dharwar We gratefully acknowledge the logistical support of
Supergroup in the western part of the Dharwar craton the Department of Mines and Geology, Government
may appear to be dominated by diapiric structures of Karnataka, Bangalore, and grants from the Royal
of the type described by Bouhallier et al (1993), Society, London, and the University of Exeter, UK.
Choukroune et al (1995) and Chardon et al (1996),
earlier structures like those in the comparable high-
grade gneiss terrain of Greenland may be present in References
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