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In the Deccan region of western India ferricrete duricrusts, usually described as laterites, cap some basalt summits east of the Western Ghats escarpment, basalts of the low-lying Konkan Plain to its west, as well as some sizeable isolated basalt plateaus rising from the Plain. The duricrusts are iron-cemented saprolite with vermiform hollows, but apart from that have little in common with the common descriptions of laterite. The classical laterite profile is not present. In particular there are no pisolitic concretions, no or minimal development of concretionary crust, and the pallid zone, commonly assumed to be typical of laterites, is absent. A relatively thin, non-indurated saprolite usually lies between the duricrust and fresh basalt. The duricrust resembles the classical laterite of Angadippuram in Kerala (southwestern India), but is much harder. The High Deccan duricrusts capping the basalt summits in the Western Ghats have been interpreted as residuals from a continuous (but now largely destroyed) laterite blanket that represents in situ transformation of the uppermost lavas, and thereby as marking the original top of the lava pile. But the unusual pattern of the duricrusts on the map and other evidence suggest instead that the duricrusts formed along a palaeoriver system, and are now in inverted relief. The two interpretations lead to different tectonic histories. Duricrust formation involved lateral material input besides vertical elemental exchange. We may have reached the stage when the very concepts of laterite and lateritization are hindering progress in regolith research.
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