The crustal-scale Karakoram shear zone structurally distinguishes the western Himalaya from—and provides an opportunity to compare to—the central and eastern portions of the orogen. To evaluate the tectonic evolution of the western Himalaya, this paper presents granite U/Th-Pb ages and zircon Hf isotopic signatures along the two major structures in northern India: the Karakoram shear zone and the Zanskar shear zone, the westernmost limb of the South Tibetan detachment system. Leucogranites in Zanskar crystallized 27–20 Ma and exhibit Precambrian to Paleozoic inheritance and predominantly negative εHf(t) values typical of the Greater Himalayan Sequence. Karakoram shear zone leucogranites have igneous crystallization ages over a prolonged period from 22 Ma to <13 Ma, contain Late Cretaceous through Paleocene inherited cores, and have εHf(t) values from +1 to +9. These inherited ages and mostly positive εHf(t) values compare closely to the adjacent Ladakh batholith, but low εHf(t) values along the Karakoram shear zone suggest an input of older crustal material from the proximal Karakoram terrane or subducted Indian crust. The Zanskar Greater Himalayan Sequence contains two suites of Paleozoic granites: (1) Pan-African Cambrian–Ordovician granites at the cores of gneiss domes and (2) Mississippian–Permian granites related to magmatism associated with the Panjal Traps. Monazite ages record peak through retrograde metamorphic conditions from 27.3 ± 1.2 Ma to 17.2 ± 0.9 Ma concurrent with anatectic leucogranite crystallization. Cenozoic partial melting in the Greater Himalayan Sequence occurred contemporaneously across the Himalayan orogen, but lower degrees of partial melting and ubiquitous doming distinguish the westernmost Greater Himalayan Sequence in Zanskar.
- Received 20 March 2012.
- Revision received 20 February 2013.
- Accepted 3 March 2013.
- © 2011 Geological Society of America