Dating the onset of ancient (>1 Ma) karstification is a challenge. One approach is to date the earliest calcite cements in speleothems. We show the benefits of in situ U-Pb dating directly on thin sections from ancient (ca. 30 Ma) thin (<1 mm) speleothems in the karstified Lower Oligocene lacustrine-palustrine carbonates of the Paris Basin (France), which cannot be dated using other methods. We dated 32 calcite rafts (a type of speleothem), one geopetal cement, and 10 calcite cements precipitated along the karstic walls. The ages of the calcite rafts and cements at 29 ± 1 Ma (Lower Oligocene) fall within the age range of the host deposits (≈29 Ma) previously deduced from palaeontological evidence. We demonstrate that cementation of the carbonate host rock, its dissolution, and the speleothem precipitation occurred within 2 m.y. after deposition. Ostracods and intraclasts trapped within Rupelian calcite rafts clearly indicate that the karst developed deep underground shortly before a phase of lacustrine-palustrine sedimentation at the surface. This very early dissolution episode is attributed to the uplift of the Paris Basin as a result of the far-field intraplate deformation induced by the alpine orogenesis. This study shows that in situ U-Pb geochronology on ancient calcite rafts is a promising technique for the indirect dating of karstification and, more broadly, for dating geodynamic events and diagenetic evolution of sedimentary basins.

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