Abstract

Detrital zircon samples from Cambrian and Lower to Middle Ordovician strata were taken across and along the strike of the Himalaya from Pakistan to Bhutan (∼2000 km). By sampling rocks from one time interval for nearly the entire length of an orogen, and by covering a range of lithotectonic units, we minimize time as a significant source of variance in detrital age spectra, and thus obtain direct assessment of the spatial variability in sediment provenance. This approach was applied to the Tethyan margin of the Himalaya, which during the Cambrian occupied a central depositional position between two major mountain belts that formed during the amalgamation of Gondwana, the internal East African orogen and the external Ross-Delamerian orogen of East Gondwana. Detrital age spectra from our Lesser and Tethyan Himalayan samples show that well-mixed sediment was dispersed across at least 2000 km of the northern Indian margin. The detrital zircon age spectra for our samples are consistent with sources for most grains from areas outside the Indian craton that record Pan-African events, such as the Ross-Delamerian orogen; East African orogen, including the juvenile Arabian-Nubian Shield; and Kuunga-Pinjarra orogen. The great distances of sediment transport and high degree of mixing of detrital zircon ages are extraordinary, and they may be attributed to a combination of widespread orogenesis associated with the assembly of Gondwana, the equatorial position of continents, potent chemical weathering, and sediment dispersal across a nonvegetated landscape.

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