High-resolution petrographic and heavy-mineral analyses of Bengal Fan turbidites from six cores drilled during IODP Expeditions 353 and 354 elucidate factors controlling their intersample compositional variability as a key to understanding sedimentary processes and erosional evolution of the Himalayan belt since the Miocene. Bengal Fan turbidites are feldspatho-quartzose to litho-feldspatho-quartzose with plagioclase > K-feldspar; slow-settling micas increase in abundance in very fine sand and coarse silt. The feldspar/quartz ratio and higher-rank metamorphic rock fragments notably increase from uppermost Miocene to Pleistocene deposits, which is ascribed to the onset of rapid exhumation of the Eastern Himalayan syntaxis since ∼ 5 Ma. The same trends are documented in Nicobar Fan turbidites, confirming that they belong to the same sedimentary system. Both Bengal and Nicobar fans record a pulse in mass accumulation rate at Tortonian times, when supply of sedimentary and very-low-grade metasedimentary detritus reflected accelerated exhumation of the Lesser Himalaya. In contrast to foreland-basin sediments, where ferromagnesian minerals have been completely dissolved in strata as young as Pliocene–Pleistocene, in both Bengal–Nicobar and Indus fans amphibole invariably represents about half of the moderately rich to rich transparent-heavy-mineral suite, demonstrating that amphibolite-facies Greater Himalaya metamorphic rocks were widely exposed in the Himalayan range well before the late Miocene and possibly since the late Oligocene, as indicated by a few sillimanite and kyanite grains in Bengal Fan sediments as old as 23 Ma and 28 Ma, respectively. Diagenetic dissolution strongly affected olivine and pyroxene in strata older than the middle and early Pleistocene, respectively, whereas amphibole decreases markedly through progressively older Miocene strata. Ferromagnesian minerals and sillimanite are almost completely dissolved in lower Miocene strata, where durable zircon, tourmaline, rutile, and apatite make up half of the strongly depleted heavy-mineral assemblage. Quaternary turbidites from the six studied cores have virtually the same compositional signatures, testifying to efficient homogenization by turbidite transport and reworking across the fan. Turbidites in western cores closer to peninsular India (U1444A and U1454B) are not different from those in eastern cores, indicating very minor supply from the subcontinent. Forward-mixing calculations based on integrated petrographic and heavy-mineral data indicate that sand supply from the Brahmaputra River to Quaternary turbidites was four times larger than supply from the Ganga River, indicating up to six times higher sediment yields and erosion rates in the Brahmaputra than in the Ganga catchment, largely reflecting superfast erosion of the Eastern Himalayan syntaxis.

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