The Cow Head Group is an Early Palaeozoic base-of-slope sediment apron composed of carbonate and shale. Whereas coarse-grained conglomerate and calcarenite are readily interpreted as debris-flow and turbidite deposits, calcilutite (lime mudstone), calcisiltite, and shale combine to form three distinct lithofacies whose present attributes are a function of both sedimentation and early diagenesis. Shale is the most common lithology. Black, green, and red shale colour variations reflect the abundance of organic matter in the source area and oxygenation conditions of the sea bottom. In black and green shale, millimetre- to centimetre-thick, alternating dark and light laminations represent terrigenous mud turbidites and hemipelagites, respectively. The calcisiltite/shale facies is uncommon and is composed of numerous graded carbonate-shale sequences (GCSS) deposited from waning carbonate turbidites and fall-out of terrigenous muds. Some of the characteristics of ribbon and parted lime mudstones in the calcilutite/shale facies can be explained by deposition of carbonate mud from dilute turbidity currents or hemipelagic settling. Other features are diagenetic in origin.
The lack of micrite in GCSS and in the interbedded shales of the calcilutite/shale facies is interpreted to reflect early dissolution of the finer carbonate from these sediments. This remobilized carbonate was precipitated locally to: lithify lime mudstone turbidites or hemipelagites; form diagenetic lime mudstone beds and nodules; cement calcisiltites; and form dolomite. Many of the calcisiltites and calcilutites were, therefore, carbonate enriched at the expense of adjacent argillaceous sediments.
These attributes characterize not only fine-grained sediments of the Cow Head Group but many other Early Palaeozoic slope carbonates as well, suggesting that the model proposed here for depositionl diagenesis has wider application.