Topographic uplift of the southern African Plateau is commonly attributed to mantle causes, but the links between mantle processes, uplift, and erosion patterns are not necessarily straightforward. We acquired apatite (U-Th)/He (AHe) dates from eight kimberlite and basement samples from the lower reaches of the large westward-draining Orange River system with the goal of evaluating the roles of lithospheric modification and river incision on the erosion history here. Average AHe dates range from 79 to 118 Ma and thermal history models suggest that most samples are consistent with a main erosion phase at ca. 120–100 Ma, with some variability across the region indicating a complex erosion history. Major erosion overlaps with the timing of strong lithospheric thermochemical modification as recorded in xenoliths from the studied kimberlites, but the denudation pattern does not mimic the northward progression of lithospheric alteration across the study region. We attribute this area’s denudation history to a combination of mantle effects, rifting, establishment of the Orange River outlet at its current location, and later faulting. When considering these results with other kimberlite-derived surface histories from an ∼1000-km-long E-W transect across the plateau, an eastward-younging trend in denudation is evident. The interplay of mantle processes and the shape of the large, west-draining Orange River basin likely control this first order-pattern.

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