Sedimentary strata in the Lhasa terrane of southern Tibet record a long but poorly constrained history of basin formation and inversion. To investigate these events, we sampled Palaeozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks in the Lhasa terrane for detrital zircon uranium-lead (U-Pb) analysis. The >700 detrital zircon U-Pb ages reported in this paper provide the first significant detrital zircon data set from the Lhasa terrane and shed new light on the tectonic and depositional history of the region. Collectively, the dominant detrital zircon age populations within these rocks are 100-150, 500-600 and 1000-1400 Ma. Sedimentary strata near Nam Co in central Lhasa are mapped as Lower Cretaceous but detrital zircons with ages younger than 400 Ma are conspicuously absent. The detrital zircon age distribution and other sedimentological evidence suggest that these strata are likely Carboniferous in age, which requires the existence of a previously unrecognized fault or unconformity. Lower Jurassic strata exposed within the Bangong suture between the Lhasa and Qiangtang terranes contain populations of detrital zircons with ages between 200 and 500 Ma and 1700 and 2000 Ma. These populations differ from the detrital zircon ages of samples collected in the Lhasa terrane and suggest a unique source area. The Upper Cretaceous Takena Formation contains zircon populations with ages between 100 and 160 Ma, 500 and 600 Ma and 1000 and 1400 Ma. Detrital zircon ages from these strata suggest that several distinct fluvial systems occupied the southern portion of the Lhasa terrane during the Late Cretaceous and that deposition in the basin ceased before 70 Ma. Carboniferous strata exposed within the Lhasa terrane likely served as source rocks for sediments deposited during Cretaceous time. Similarities between the lithologies and detrital zircon age-probability plots of Carboniferous rocks in the Lhasa and Qiangtang terranes and Tethyan strata in the Himalaya suggest that these areas were located proximal to one another within Gondwanaland. U-Pb ages of detrital zircons from our samples and differences between the geographic distribution of igneous rocks within the Tibetan plateau suggest that it is possible to discriminate a southern vs. northern provenance signature using detrital zircon age populations.
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