Structural transects through the South Tibetan Detachment system (STDS) in the Dzakaa Chu valley, Tibet reveal a 1000-m thick, low-angle (<35°) zone of distributed ductile shear that displaces Paleozoic sediments over amphibolite facies gneisses, calc-mylonites and leucogranites of the Greater Himalayan Series (GHS). Within the shear zone, grain-size reduction with dynamic recrystallisation of quartz and growth of secondary phyllosilicates accommodated ductile deformation at elevated temperatures. Small-scale brittle normal faults and extensional shear veins overprint ductile features recording deformation at lower temperatures. Our structural data indicate that the Dzakaa Chu STDS records a progression from ductile- to brittle-deformation without development of a discrete detachment fault(s) that is common to many STDS sections. U(–Th)–Pb dating of post-kinematic leucogranites suggest that, in the lower part of the shear zone, mylonitic fabric development occurred prior to 20 Ma. By integrating structural and geochronological evidences we propose that the Dzakaa Chu STDS represents a deeper structural position than elsewhere in the Himalaya and provides important insight into the early ductile exhumation of the GHS that was dominated by movement along a 1-km wide shear zone without discrete brittle detachments. These findings are an important step towards understanding the development of low-angle detachment fault systems active during continental collisio
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