Original paper

A possible new UHP unit in the Western Alps as revealed by ancient Roman quern-stones from Costigliole Saluzzo, Italy

Groppo, Chiara; Ferrando, Simona; Castelli, Daniele; Elia, Diego; Meirano, Valeria; Facchinetti, Luca

European Journal of Mineralogy Volume 28 Number 6 (2016), p. 1215 - 1232

published: Dec 1, 2016

DOI: 10.1127/ejm/2016/0028-2531

BibTeX file

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Peculiar coesite + chloritoid + garnet ± glaucophane talcschists have been used to make at least four quern-stones, unearthed in the ruins of a villa rustica belonging to the Roman imperial period and located at Costigliole Saluzzo, Western Alps. The site of the villa rustica and the presence of coesite relics could suggest a possible provenance of these rocks from one of the already known ultra-high pressure ( UHP ) units of the Western Alps, i. e ., either the Brossasco-Isasca Unit (BIU) of the southern Dora-Maira Massif or the Lago di Cignana Unit (LCU) of the Piemonte Zermatt-Saas Zone. However, similar talcschists have never been reported from these units. Two samples of coesite-bearing, chloritoid + garnet ± glaucophane talcschist collected from two different specimens of quernstones have been petrologically investigated with the aim of defining their peak pressure – temperature ( P-T ) conditions. The stability field of the coesite + garnet + talc + chloritoid + glaucophane assemblage has been constrained using isochemical phase diagrams modelled in the MnNCFMASHO system; prograde P-T conditions have been additionally constrained using the yttrium-in-garnet (YAG) geothermometer. Thermodynamic modelling tightly constrains peak P-T conditions at 480 – 510°C, 27 – 31 kbar. The unusual Mg-rich composition of the talcschists suggests that they originated by Mg-metasomatism of either a continental crustal protolith (granodiorite or Fe-rich metapelite) or an oceanic crustal protolith (altered oceanic crust). A mechanism similar to that proposed for the well-known pyrope-bearing whiteschists of the UHP BIU, i. e . in fl ux of antigorite-derived fl uids along shear zones during subduction, can be envisaged. Although the field occurrence of these coesite + chloritoid + garnet ± glaucophane talcschists is still unknown, the obtained results clearly show that these rocks cannot belong to the UHP BIU, whose peak P-T conditions are at significantly higher T and P (730°C, 40 – 43 kbar). Therefore, thisfinding opens the challenging hypothesis of the existence of a further, still unmapped, UHP Unit in the Western Alps that also experienced UHP metamorphism and fluid influx from underlying serpentinites during subduction. A detailed mapping and petrologic investigation of the tectono-metamorphic continental ( i. e ., southern Dora-Maira Massif) and oceanic ( i. e ., Monviso meta-ophiolite Complex) units in the proximities of Costigliole Saluzzo is required in order to further constrain the location and the dimension of this new UHP unit.


thermodynamic modellinguhp metamorphismwestern alpsmg-metasomatismcoesite + chloritoid + garnet + glaucophane talcschistmicro-raman spectroscopy