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Reconstructing the stratigraphic architecture of deposits prior to Cenozoic Himalayan uplift is critical for unravelling the structural, metamorphic, depositional and erosional history of the orogen. The nature and distribution of Proterozoic and lower Paleozoic strata have helped elucidate the relationship between lithotectonic zones, as well as the geometries of major bounding faults. Stratigraphic and geochronological work has revealed a uniform and widespread pattern of Paleoproterozoic strata >1.6 Ga that are unconformably overlain by <1.1 Ga rocks. The overlying Neoproterozoic strata record marine sedimentation, including a Cryogenian diamictite, a well-developed carbonate platform succession and condensed fossiliferous Precambrian–Cambrian boundary strata. Palaeontological study of Cambrian units permits correlation from the Indian craton through three Himalayan lithotectonic zones to a precision of within a few million years. Detailed sedimentological and stratigraphic analysis shows the differentiation of a proximal realm of relatively condensed, nearshore, evaporite-rich units to the south and a distal realm of thick, deltaic deposits to the north. Thus, Neoproterozoic and Cambrian strata blanketed the northern Indian craton with an extensive, northward-deepening, succession. Today, these rocks are absent from parts of the inner Lesser Himalaya, and the uplift and erosion of these proximal facies explains a marked change in global seawater isotopic chemistry at 16 Ma.

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