The early Paleozoic paleogeography of East Gondwanan terranes, including the North China Craton (NCC), is contentious, primarily reflecting the paucity of integrated geochronological, biogeographic, and tectonic data sets. Our new sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe data from 14 sandstones of the Taebaeksan Basin, Korea, indicate that its platform shelf sequences, typified by trilobite faunal assemblages diagnostic of the NCC, record the vestige of coeval arc magmatism. Detrital zircons analyzed from the sandstones yielded Eoarchean to Early Ordovician ages, which define three distinct types of distribution patterns characterized by: (1) double peaks at ca. 1.85 Ga and 2.50 Ga diagnostic of basement rocks in the NCC; (2) minor peaks at ca. 1.75, 1.6, and 1.2−1.1 Ga in addition to double peaks; and finally (3) a scattered array of late Paleoproterozoic to Neoproterozoic zircons lacking double peaks. The marked contrasts among the three types reflect significant changes in provenance, most likely linked to variations in paleo-water depths during the “Sauk” transgression. Longshore- or onshore-directed currents, associated with an increase in water depth, apparently brought outboard oceanic detritus and benthic trilobites into the relatively flat outer shelf of the Taebaeksan Basin. As a result, fine-grained sandstones received a large amount of detritus from distal sources, yielding mixed signatures in zircon age patterns and trilobite assemblages. Excluding the basal sandstone-conglomerate unit, five siliciclastic formations contain syndepositional zircon populations, and their weighted mean 206Pb/238U ages decrease upsection from 512 ± 5 Ma to 483 ± 2 Ma, indicating a sedimentary influx from contemporaneous volcanic activity. In conjunction with arc-related bulk-rock geochemistry and juvenile Nd isotopic signature, early Paleozoic detrital zircons likely represent the first-cycle detritus supplied for ∼30 m.y. from the proto-Japan arc that initially formed at ca. 520 Ma. Together with the occurrence of ca. 700−500 Ma detrital Pacific Gondwana zircons in fine-grained sandstones, Paleozoic arc-sourced detritus suggests that the Korean Peninsula was paleogeographically linked to an ancient convergent margin, perhaps extending from the Terra Australis orogen.

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