The evolution of the northern margin of Gondwana, especially to the north of India and Australia, remains enigmatic. Much controversy concerns when and where the Tarim craton was amalgamated with northern Gondwana due to final closure of the North and South Altyn Oceans (two branches of the Proto–Tethys Ocean between southeastern Tarim and northern Gondwana). This study addressed these issues through systematic field-based zircon U-Pb dating and Hf-isotope analyses of early Paleozoic sedimentary rocks in the Altyn Tagh orogen. New dating results reveal depositional ages from ca. 494 to 426 Ma. Provenance tracing indicates the ca. 494–477 Ma samples were dominantly sourced from local Altyn Tagh areas to the south of the North Altyn Ocean, whereas the ca. 465–449 Ma samples are characterized by a significant increase in ca. 2.7–2.4 Ga, 2.0–1.7 Ga, and 840–780 Ma detrital zircons, indicating an augmented supply of detritus from the Tarim craton to the north of the North Altyn Ocean. This change indicates a major provenance shift from a single to multiple source regions between ca. 477 and 465 Ma, marking the timing of the final closure of the North Altyn Ocean. Zircon U-Pb and Hf-isotopic data from the ca. 444–426 Ma samples resemble those from the ca. 465–449 Ma samples, suggesting local sediment recycling related to a postcollisional regime. Considering the South Altyn Ocean and other branches of the Proto–Tethys Ocean, we infer that the entire Proto–Tethys Ocean might have been progressively closed at ca. 500–420 Ma, leading to the amalgamation of most East Asian blocks with northern Gondwana. Detrital zircon U-Pb and Hf-isotope comparisons indicate that Tarim shared a North Indian affinity with many East Asian terranes (such as North Qilian, North Qinling, South China, Indochina, South Qiangtang, etc.), rather than with Arabia-Iran or other terranes (e.g., Lhasa and Sibumasu) that were adjacent to western Australia along the northern margin of Gondwana.

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