Southern Africa: Karoo Basin and Cape Fold Belt

J. J. Veevers, D. I. Cole, E. J. Cowan*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    150 Citations (Scopus)


    Three basement trends, defined by the 1.0-0.5 Ga foldbelts of weak crust that wrap around the 1 Ga Namaqua-Natal Belt and >2.5 Ga Kaapvaal Province, provide a tub-shaped template that was impressed on succeeding structures up to the Cretaceous breakup of Pangea along the present divergent margins. The pattern is reprinted during the Ordovician-Devonian deposition of the Cape Supergroup in grabens on the northwest and northeast linked by an east-west depositional axis and during the Permian and Triassic development of the Cape Fold Belt along the eastwest trend linked with intermittent uplifts to the northwest (Atlantic upland) at a syntaxis around Cape Town and to the northeast (Eastern upland) at a syntaxis in the (restored) Falkland Islands. The inception of the Karoo (Gondwanan) Sequence in the latest Carboniferous (290 Ma) reflected the Gondwanaland-wide relaxation of the Pangean platform in sags (Karoo terrain) and rifts (Zambezian terrain). The first appearance of tuffs from a convergent arc in the Sakmarian (ca. 277 Ma) marked the onset of a foreland basin. Material derived from the south included a small component of mainly rhyodacitic tuff which persisted to the end of Beaufort deposition, when the presumed southern magmatic arc became extinct. Karoo deposition expanded northward over the interior beyond that of the confined pre-Gondwanan Cape Sequence. The axis of maximum thickness of the Permian-Triassic foredeep remained near the South Crop of the Karoo Basin; the parallel drainage axis migrated northward from an initial distance of 80 km during Dwyka deposition through 400 km during Ecca deposition and 550 km during Beaufort to a final 1,000 km during Stormberg deposition. The increasing separation of foredeep and drainage axis reflects the widening during the growth of the Cape Fold Belt of the southern depositional flank of the Karoo Basin at the expense of the starved northern cratonic side. Only during Stormberg deposition did the northern craton match the Cape Fold Belt as a source of voluminous sediment. Renewed and more extensive deposition in the Late Triassic corresponds to a singularity in Pangean history: terminal compression of foldbelts (Cape Fold Belt, Bowen-Sydney Basin, Canning Basin) and widespread subsidence, mainly in rifts that prefigured the divergent margins of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions. The subsequent Karoo volcanism reflects the increased activity of Pangean hotspots.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)223-279
    Number of pages57
    JournalMemoir of the Geological Society of America
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1994


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