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ABSTRACT

The Late Westphalian to Artinskian glaciomarine deposits of the Karoo and Kalahari basins of southern Africa consist of massive and stratified diamictite, mudrock with ice-rafted material, sandstone, silty rhythmite, shale and subordinate conglomerate forming a cyclic succession recognizable across both basins. A complete cycle comprises a resistant basal unit of apparently massive diamictite overlain by softer, bedded stratified diamictite, sandstone and mudrock with a total thickness of as much as 350 m. Four major cycles are observed each separated by bounding surfaces. Lateral facies changes are present in some cycles.

The massive diamictites formed as aprons and fans in front of the ice-grounding line, whereas the stratified diamictites represent more distal debris-flow fans. The sandstones originated in different environments as turbidite sands, small subaqueous outwash channel sands and delta front sands. The rhythmites and mudrock represent blanket deposits derived from turbid meltwater plumes.

Cycles represent deglaciation sequences which formed during ice retreat phases caused by eustatic changes in the Karoo and Kalahari basins. Evidence for shorter-term fluctuation of the ice margin is present within the major advance-retreat cycles. Hardly any sediment was deposited during lowstand ice sheet expansion, whereas a deglaciation sequence was laid down during a sea-level rise and ice margin retreat with the volume of meltwater and sediment input depending on temporary stillstands of the ice margin during the retreat phase. The duration of the cycles is between 9 and 11 Ma suggesting major global tectono-eustatic events. Smaller cycles probably linked to orbital forcing were superimposed on the longer-term events. A sequence stratigraphic approach using the stacking of deglaciation sequences with the ice margin advance phases forming bounding surfaces, can be a tool in the framework analysis of ancient glaciomarine basin fills.