The deepest Hercynian metamorphic terrains in the Pyrenees and in the nearby Montagne Noire are made up of medium-grade orthogneisses and micaschists, and of high-grade, often granulitic, paragneisses. The existence of a granitic-metamorphic Cadomian basement and of its sedimentary Lower Paleozoic cover was advocated from the following main arguments: (i) a supposed unconformity of the Lower Cambrian Canaveilles Group (the lower part of the Paleozoic series) upon both granitic and metamorphic complexes; (ii) a ca. 580 Ma U-Pb age for the metagranitic Canigou gneisses. A SE to NW transgression of the Cambrian cover and huge Variscan recumbent (“penninic”) folds completed this classical model. However, recent U-Pb dating provided a ca. 474 Ma, early Ordovician (Arenigian) age for the me-tagranites, whereas the Vendian age (581 ± 10 Ma) of the base of the Canaveilles Group was confirmed [Cocherie et al., 2005]. In fact, these granites are laccoliths intruded at different levels of the Vendian-Lower Cambrian series. So the Cadomian granitic basement model must be discarded. In a new model, developed in the Pyrenees and which applies to the Montagne Noire where the orthogneisses appear to be Lower Ordovician intrusives too, there are neither transgression of the Paleozoic nor very large Hercynian recumbent folds. The pre-Variscan (pre-Upper Ordovician) series must be divided in two groups: (i) at the top, the Jujols Group, mainly early to late Cambrian, that belongs to a Cambrian-Ordovician sedimentary and magmatic cycle ; the early Ordovician granites pertain to this cycle; (ii) at the base, the Canaveilles Group of the Pyrenees and the la Salvetat-St-Pons series of the Montagne Noire, Vendian (to earliest Cambrian?), are similar to the Upper Alcudian series of Central Iberia. The Canaveilles Group is a shale-greywacke series with rhyodacitic volcanics, thick carbonates, black shales, etc. The newly defined olistostromic and carbonated, up to 150 m thick Tregurà Formation forms the base of the Jujols Group, which rests more or less conformably on the Canaveilles Group. The high-grade paragneisses which in some massifs underlie the Canaveilles and Jujols low- to medium grade metasediments are now considered to be an equivalent of the Canaveilles Group with a higher Variscan metamorphic grade; they are not derived from metamorphic Precambrian rocks. So, there is no visible Cadomian metamorphic (or even sedimentary) basement in the Pyrenees. However, because of its age, the Canaveilles Group belongs to the end of the Cadomian cycle and was deposited in a subsident basin, probably a back-arc basin which developed in the Cadomian, active-transform N-Gondwanian margin of this time.
The presence of Cadomian-Panafrican (ca. 600 Ma) zircon cores in early Ordovician granites and Vendian volcanics implies the anatexis of a thick (> 15 km?) syn-Cadomian series, to be compared to the very thick Lower Alcudian series of Central Iberia, which underlies the Upper Alcudian series. Nd isotopic compositions of Neoproterozoic and Cambrian-Ordovician sediments and magmatites, as elsewhere in Europe, yield Paleoproterozoic (ca. 2 Ga) model-ages. From the very rare occurrences of rocks of this age in W-Europe, it can be envisionned that the thick Pyrenean Cadomian series lies on a Paleoproterozoic metamorphic basement. But, if such a basement does exist, it must be “hidden”, as well as the lower part of the Neoproterozoic series, in the Variscan restitic granulites of the present (Variscan) lower crust. So a large part of the pre-Variscan crust was made of volcano-sedimentary Cadomian series, explaining the “fertile” characteristics of this crust which has been able to produce the voluminous Lower Ordovician and, later, Upper Carboniferous granitoids.