Structure and U-Pb Zircon Geochronology in the Variscan Foreland of SW Sardinia, Italy

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New field mapping, U–Pb zircon geochronology and structural analysis of the southernmost Sardinia metamorphic basement, considered a branch of the Variscan foreland, indicate that it is, in part, allochthonous and was structurally emplaced within the foreland area, rather than being older depositional basement beneath the foreland succession. The Bithia Formation, classically considered part of the ‘Southern Sulcis metamorphic Complex’ (and here termed the Bithia tectonic unit, or BTU), is a greenschist facies metamorphic unit commonly interpreted as Precambrian in age. New geochronology of felsic volcanic rocks in the BTU, however, yield a U–Pb zircon age of 457.01 ± 0.17 Ma (Upper Ordovician). Thus, the depositional age of the unit is younger than the weakly metamorphosed Lower Cambrian rocks of the adjacent foreland succession. New detailed mapping and analysis of the field relationships between the BTU and foreland succession indicates that their contact is a mylonitic shear zone. The metamorphic character, general lithology, and deformational history of the BTU are similar to those of units in the Variscan Nappe Zone located northeast of the foreland area. We reinterpret the BTU as a synformal klippe of material related tectonically to the Variscan Nappe Zone. We infer that it was thrust over and became infolded into the foreland during late stages of the Variscan contractional deformation.