The study of deeply exhumed ancient collisional belts offers important constraints on geologic processes and properties complementary to inaccessible portions of the crustal column in active orogens. The ca. 1.8−1.7 Ga Big Sky orogeny in southwest Montana is a major convergent belt associated with the Proterozoic amalgamation of Laurentia. New structural, petrologic, and geochronologic data from the Northern Madison Range, crossing the NE-SW trend of the belt, record key information about the internal dynamics of the orogen. At least two phases of Big Sky−related deformation are preserved, both nearly coeval with peak metamorphic conditions of ∼0.9−0.8 GPa and >700 °C. Metamorphic zircon grains from a deformed mafic dike yield a weighted mean ion probe U-Pb date of 1737 ± 28 Ma (2σ). Monazite grains from a metapelite yield electron microprobe U-Th total-Pb dates of ca. 1750−1705 Ma, spanning prograde, peak, and retrograde intervals. Exposed Proterozoic paleodepths range from deeper levels (∼45−40 km; 1.2 GPa) in the northwestern end of the range to shallower levels (∼30−25 km) in the central-southeast area. The age of high-grade tectonism appears to become younger southeastward away from the core of the orogen, from ca. 1810−1780 Ma in the Highland Mountains, to ca. 1780−1750 Ma in the Ruby Range, Tobacco Root Mountains, and northwesternmost Northern Madison Range, and 1750−1720 Ma in the central Northern Madison Range. These spatial and temporal patterns of lateral growth and propagation of the orogen are similar to those observed in other collisional orogenic systems, and they may reflect multiple collision phases, protracted collision, and/or postcollisional collapse.
- Received 17 April 2015.
- Revision received 9 July 2015.
- Accepted 28 July 2015.
- © 2015 Geological Society of America