Ages derived from various isotope systems in high-pressure (HP) rocks of the western Tianshan orogen of NW China have been interpreted as evidence for late Carboniferous and/or Triassic collision of the accretionary margin of the Central Asian Orogenic Belt (CAOB) with the Tarim Craton. In order to elucidate this controversy, we present new P-T data as well as Sm-Nd and Ar-40/Ar-39 cooling ages for an eclogite sample from Atbashi in the accretionary m lange of the South Tianshan suture in Kyrgyzstan, some 500 km along strike to the west of the controversial locality in the upper Akeyazhi River Valley in NW China. A clockwise P-T path for the eclogite with peak pressures of 18 to 24 kbar at 520 to 600 degrees C is consistent with near-isothermal decompression and exhumation in a subduction zone before collision of the CAOB with the Tarim Craton. Geochemical data and an initial epsilon Nd value of similar to +9 suggest an N-MORB protolith for the eclogite. The high-pressure mineral assemblage of the eclogite yielded a statistically robust Sm-Nd isochron age of 319 +/- 4 Ma (2 sigma, 5 data points, MSWD = 0.4) for equilibration and closure of the Sm-Nd system during HP metamorphism. Ar-40/Ar-39 dating of phengite from the same sample yielded a cooling age of 316 +/- 3 Ma (2 sigma) implying rapid exhumation. Docking of the Tarim Craton with the southern margin of the Middle Tianshan-North Tianshan blocks in Kyrgyzstan during the late Carboniferous is supported by widespread emplacement of A-type granitoids of early Permian age that suggest a setting of consolidated crust. An tuunetamorphosed and little deformed molasse-type conglomerate of latest Carboniferous age, overlying the HP rocks, indicates that HP metamorphism, exhumation, and exposure of the HP m lange occurred from 320 to 300 Ma. The detrital zircon age spectrum of a metagraywacke sample from the accretionary melange suggests sources in the Tarim Craton and/or from the Middle and North Tianshan that possibly comprise rifted blocks from Tarim.
(2010): Mineral ages and P-T conditions of Late Paleozoic high-pressure eclogite and provenance of mélange sediments from Atbashi in the south Tianshan orogen of Kyrgyzstan
. American Journal of Science