Provenance and reconnaissance study of detrital zircons of the Palaeozoic Cape Supergroup in South Africa: Revealing the interaction of the Kalahari and Río de la Plata cratons

Pieter H. Fourie, Udo Zimmermann, Nicolas J. Beukes, Thanusha Naidoo, Katsuro Kobayashi, Jan Kosler, Eizo Nakamura, Jenny Tait, Johannes N. Theron

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33 Citations (Scopus)


In order to facilitate the understanding of the geological evolution of the Kalahari Craton and its relation to South America, the provenance of the first large-scale cratonic cover sequence of the craton, namely the Ordovician to Carboniferous Cape Supergroup was studied through geochemical analyses of the siliciclastics, and age determinations of detrital zircon. The Cape Supergroup comprises mainly quartz-arenites and a Hirnantian tillite in the basal Table Mountain Group, subgreywackes and mudrocks in the overlying Bokkeveld Group, while siltstones, interbedded shales and quartz-arenites are typical for the Witteberg Group at the top of the Cape Supergroup. Palaeocurrent analyses indicate transport of sediment mainly from northerly directions, off the interior of the Kalahari Craton with subordinate transport from a westerly source in the southwestern part of the basin near Cape Town. Geochemical provenance data suggest mainly sources from passive to active continental margin settings. The reconnaissance study of detrital zircons reveals a major contribution of Mesoproterozoic sources throughout the basin, reflecting the dominance of the Namaqua-Natal Metamorphic Belt, situated immediately north of the preserved strata of Cape Supergroup, as a source with Archaean-aged zircons being extremely rare. We interpret the Namaqua-Natal Metamorphic Belt to have been a large morphological divide at the time of deposition of the Cape Supergroup that prevented input of detrital zircons from the interior early Archaean Kaapvaal cratonic block of the Kalahari Craton. Neoproterozoic and Cambrian zircons are abundant and reflect the basement geology of the outcrops of Cape strata. Exposures close to Cape Town must have received sediment from a cratonic fragment that was situated off the Kalahari Craton to the west and that has subsequently drifted away. This cratonic fragment predominantly supplied Meso- to Neoproterozoic, and Cambrian-aged zircon grains in addition to minor Silurian to Lower Devonian zircons and very rare Archaean (2.5 Ga) and late Palaeoproterozoic (1.8-2.0 Ga) ones. No Siluro-Devonian source has yet been identified on the Kalahari Craton, but there are indications for such a source in southern Patagonia. Palaeozoic successions in eastern Argentina carry a similar detrital zircon population to that found here, including evidence of a Silurian to Lower Devonian magmatic event. The Kalahari and Río de la Plata Cratons were thus in all likelihood in close proximity until at least the Carboniferous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-541
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Cape Supergroup
  • Detrital zircon age dating
  • Gondwana
  • Palaeozoic
  • Provenance
  • Río de la Plata and Kalahari Craton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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