On-going orogeny in the outer-arc of the Timor-Tanimbar region, eastern Indonesia

Yoshiyuki Kaneko, Shigenori Maruyama, Ade Kadarusman, Tsutomu Ota, Masahiro Ishikawa, Tatsuki Tsujimori, Akira Ishikawa, Kazuaki Okamoto

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54 Citations (Scopus)


The Timor-Tanimbar islands of eastern Indonesia form a non-volcanic arc in front of a 7 km deep fore-arc basin that separates it from a volcanic inner arc. The Timor-Tanimbar Islands expose one of the youngest high P/T metamorphic belts in the world, providing us with an excellent opportunity to study the inception of orogenic processes, undisturbed by later tectonic events. Structural and petrological studies of the high P/T metamorphic belt show that both deformation and metamorphic grade increase towards the centre of the 1 km thick crystalline belt. Kinematic indicators exhibit top-to-the-north sense of shear along the subhorizontal upper boundaries and top-to-the-south sense in the bottom boundaries of the high P/T metamorphic belt. Overall configuration suggests that the high P/T metamorphic rocks extruded as a thin sheet into a space between overlying ophiolites and underlying continental shelf sediments. Petrological study further illustrates that the central crystalline unit underwent a Barrovian-type overprint of the original high P/T metamorphic assemblages during wedge extrusion, and the metamorphic grade ranged from pumpellyite-actinolite to upper amphibolite facies. Quaternary uplift, marked by elevation of recent reefs, was estimated to be about 1260 m in Timor in the west and decreases toward Tanimbar in the east. In contrast, radiometric ages for the high P/T metamorphic rocks suggest that the exhumation of the high P/T metamorphic belt started in western Timor in Late Miocene time and migrated toward the east. Thus, the tectonic evolution of this region is diachronous and youngs to the east. We conclude that the deep-seated high P/T metamorphic belt extrudes into shallow crustal levels as a first step, followed by doming at a later stage. The so-called 'mountain building' process is restricted to the second stage. We attribute this Quaternary rapid uplift to rebound of the subducting Australian continental crust beneath Timor after it achieved positive buoyancy, due to break-off of the oceanic slab fringing the continental crust. In contrast, Tanimbar in the east has not yet been affected by later doming. A wide spectrum of processes, starting from extrusion of the high P/T metamorphic rocks and ending with the later doming due to slab break-off, can be observed in the Timor-Tanimbar region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-233
Number of pages16
JournalGondwana Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Jan


  • High P/T metamorphic belt
  • Mountain building
  • Timor-Tanimbar region
  • Wedge extrusion


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