The Witvlei Group of East-Central Namibia
Published:January 01, 2011
A. R. Prave, K.-H. Hoffmann, W. Hegenberger, A. E. Fallick, 2011. "The Witvlei Group of East-Central Namibia", The Geological Record of Neoproterozoic Glaciations, Emmanuelle Arnaud, Galen P. Halverson, Graham Shields-Zhou
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The Witvlei Group is preserved in two regional synclinoria in the Gobabis-Witvlei area of east-central Namibia and as isolated outcrops 90 km SW of Rehoboth, itself some 200 km south of that area. It consists of mixed, coarse- to fine-grained siliciclastic and carbonate strata deposited in deep- to shallow-marine, and locally non-marine, settings along the post-rift continental margin of the Kalahari Craton prior to the onset of foreland basin sedimentation recorded by the overlying terminal Neoproterozoic–Cambrian Nama Group. No direct age constrains exist for the Witvlei Group, but it post-dates c. 800 Ma rift-related rocks and pre-dates the c. 548 Ma base of the Nama Group, thereby placing it as Cryogenian to Ediacaran in age.
The Witvlei Group consists of three main units, from oldest to youngest, the Blaubeker, Court and Buschmannsklippe Formations. The Blaubeker Formation is highly variable in thickness and can be as much as 1000 m thick. It consists mostly of massive, polymict diamictite and, in the area of the type locality, contains conglomerate and pebbly sandstone beds. The diamictic strata combined with the presence of numerous faceted and striated clasts provide the evidence for glaciogenic influences on sedimentation. The highly variable thickness pattern likely reflects the infill of palaeo-valleys formed by the deep erosion and scouring of bedrock by ice, and the conglomerates and pebbly sandstones record glacial outwash processes. The Tahiti Formation is a locally developed, fine-grained sandstone above the Blaubeker Formation. It is poorly exposed and its exact stratigraphic relationship to the Blaubeker rocks and overlying Court Formation remains to be determined.
The Blaubeker rocks are overlain sharply by the basal unit of the Court Formation, the Gobabis Member. This Member is from 20 to 60 m thick and consists mostly of dark and light grey laminated dolostones that display a δ13Ccarbonate profile that rises from values of −4‰ in the lowermost beds to values of 5‰ in the topmost. The Gobabis Member is conformably overlain by the shales, marls and thin limestones of the Constance Member followed by quartzites of the uppermost unit of the Court Formation, the Simmenau Member.
The basal unit of the Buschmannsklippe Formation is the light to tan and pink grey dolostone of the Bildah Member. Its basal contact is sharp everywhere, and it is gradationally overlain by a coarsening (shoaling) upward succession from shales, thin limestones (some exhibiting formerly aragonitic fans) and fine sandstones of the La Fraque Member, to interbedded quartzites and stromatolitic and cherty dolostones of the Okambara Member. The δ13Ccarbonate profile for the Buschmannsklippe rocks shows that the basal beds of the Bildah Member begin at –4‰, followed by a decline to –6‰ in the lower La Fraque limestones and then a rise to –3‰ in the dolostones of the Okambara Member before being truncated by the base of the regionally unconformably overlying basal Weissberg Quartzite Member of the lower Nama Group. Although no glacial sediments have been recognized below the Bildah Member, its lithofacies character, stratigraphic position and C-isotopic profile are compatible with and strikingly similar to younger Cryogenian cap carbonates. Thus, the Witvlei Group arguably contains both the older and younger cap carbonates of Neoproterozoic time, but only the older Cryogenian glacial deposit.
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The Geological Record of Neoproterozoic Glaciations
In recent years, interest in Neoproterozoic glaciations has grown as their pivotal role in Earth system evolution has become increasingly clear. One of the main goals of the IGCP Project No. 512 was to produce a synthesis of newly available information on Neoproterozoic successions worldwide similar in format to Hambrey & Harland’s (1981) Earth’s pre-Pleistocene Glacial Record. This Memoir therefore consists of a series of overview chapters followed by site-specific chapters. The overview chapters cover key topics including the history of research on Neoproterozoic glaciations, identification of glacial deposits, chemostratigraphic techniques and datasets, palaeomagnetism, biostratigraphy, geochronology and climate modelling. The site specific chapters for 60 successions worldwide include reviews of the history of research on these rocks and up-to-date syntheses of the structural framework, tectonic setting, palaeomagnetic and geochronological constraints, physical, biological, and chemical stratigraphy, and descriptions of the glaciogenic and associated strata, including economic deposits.