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THE ORIGIN OF SUNDALAND

Robert Hall
Southeast Asia Research Group, Department of Earth Sciences
Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, United Kingdom
robert.hall@es.rhul.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

It is now accepted that the core of SE Asia was assembled from continental blocks that separated from
Gondwana in the Palaeozoic and amalgamated with Asian blocks in the Triassic. Some fragments of
these assembled blocks rifted and separated from Asia and later re-amalgamated with the oldest,
western, part of the SE Asian continental core during the Mesozoic. There is increasing evidence that
fragments of Cathaysian/Asian continental crust form parts of Northern Borneo and the offshore shelf
to the north of Sarawak and east of Vietnam. Sarawak, the offshore LuconiaDangerous Grounds areas,
and Palawan include such Asian continental material. These probably represent a wide accretionary
zone at the AsiaPacific boundary, which was an active continental margin until early in the Late
Cretaceous. Other continental blocks rifted from Australia in the Jurassic (SW Borneo, East JavaWest
Sulawesi, SabahNW Sulawesi, South SulawesiSumba), and the Woyla intra-oceanic arc of Sumatra,
and were added to Sundaland in the Cretaceous. After collision of these blocks subduction ceased
around Sundaland in the early Late Cretaceous, and from about 80 Ma most of Sundaland was
emergent, physically connected to Asia, but separated by deep oceans from India and Australia.

INTRODUCTION which follows the Carboniferous Song Ma


suture, and to the northwest from a Burma
This paper gives an overview of the origin and block along a Cretaceous suture and ophiolite
growth of Sundaland from the Late Palaeozoic zone (Hutchison, 1975). The western and
until the Late Cretaceous. Sundaland was an southern margins of Sundaland follow the
exposed landmass during the Pleistocene sea Sunda and Java Trenches. The eastern margin is
level lowstands, and comprises southern irregular; a boundary has often been drawn
Indochina, the ThaiMalay Peninsula, Sumatra, through West Java, northeast into Borneo and
Java, Borneo, the shallow marine shelf (the then north-west towards the South China Sea,
Sunda Shelf) between these islands, and West to exclude the ophiolitic and arc rocks added in
Sulawesi (Fig. 1). Sundaland (van Bemmelen, the Cretaceous. However, we now know that
1949; Hutchison, 1973, 1989) is the continental further east, East Java, West Sulawesi, and
core of SE Asia (Fig. 2). From the Late potentially the area including Flores and Sumba,
Cretaceous it formed the southeastern are underlain by continental crust that was at
continental promontory of the Eurasian plate the edge of Sundaland and formed the SE Asian
and was separated by deep oceans from India promontory of the Eurasian plate from the Late
and Australia. It is now bordered to the west, Cretaceous onwards.
south and east by subduction and collision
zones (Hall and Morley, 2004; Metcalfe, Sundaland has often been described as a shield
2011a,b). Its northern limit is poorly defined. It or craton (e.g. van Bemmelen, 1949; Burton,
merges with the region deformed in the 1972; Ben-Avraham and Emery, 1973; Gobbett
Cenozoic by IndiaAsia collision and is and Hutchison 1973; Hutchison, 1989; Tjia,
commonly separated from East Asia (Fig. 3) to 1996; Barber et al., 2005) which is an idea
the northeast along the Red River Shear Zone, inherited from geological thinking that pre-

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Figure 1. Simplified geography of Sundaland and surrounding regions. The 200m bathymetric contour has been
used to define the edge of the Asian margin, Sunda shelf and the SahulArafura Shelf. Bathymetric contours are at
200m and 6000m. Black filled triangles are volcanoes from the Smithsonian Institution, Global Volcanism Program
(Siebert and Simkin, 2002).

Figure 2. The Mesozoic growth of Sundaland. Late Triassic Sundaland is outlined in dark blue as pre-Cretaceous
Sundaland. The area commonly considered to form the Mesozoic continental core is outlined in light blue with a
southern boundary drawn at the limits of Cretaceous continental crust inferred by Hamilton (1979). Sundaland
grew in the Cretaceous by the addition of continental crust in East Java and West Sulawesi. The area shaded in
yellow is the modern plate boundary zone of active orogenic deformation although there are important zones of
deformation within Sundaland.
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dates plate tectonics. Hutchison (1989) stabilised in the Precambrian. P and S wave
suggested that the region stabilised to form a seismic tomography (Bijwaard et al., 1998;
single aseismic cratonic core of SE Asia during Ritsema and van Heijst, 2000) show it is an area
the Late Triassic. Some authors consider of low velocities in the lithosphere and
Sundaland to have been a rigid plate in the underlying asthenosphere, in contrast to Indian
Cenozoic (e.g. Davies, 1984; Replumaz and and Australian continental lithosphere to the
Tapponnier, 2003; Replumaz et al., 2004) that NW and SE (Figs. 5 and 6). Such low mantle
rotated clockwise as a block during the last 8 velocities are commonly interpreted in terms of
10 million years (e.g. Rangin et al., 1999) or over elevated temperature, and this is consistent
a longer period (Replumaz et al., 2004). with regional high heat flow, but they may also
However, the region has been very far from partly reflect the mantle composition or
stable (Hall and Morley, 2004) and it cannot elevated volatile contents.
have behaved as a single rigid block during most
of the Cenozoic; the considerable evidence for a Much of the Sundaland interior has high surface
heterogeneous pattern of subsidence and heat flow (Fig. 7), with values typically greater
elevation requires a much more complex than 80 mW/m2, much greater than cratons
tectonic model for the region with significant (Artemieva and Mooney, 2001; Hyndman et al.,
internal deformation of Sundaland (Hall, 1996, 2005). Likely causes are upper crustal heat flow
2002, 2009; Hall et al., 2008). from radiogenic granites and their erosional
products, the insulation effects of sediments,
Seismicity and GPS observations and a large mantle contribution. Also unlike
The Sunda Shelf is widely regarded as a stable cratons, there has been significant deformation
area (e.g. Geyh et al.,1979; Tjia, 1992), probably within Sundaland during the Mesozoic and
because it is flat and close to sea level. Data Cenozoic. During the Cenozoic there was
from the region have been used in construction widespread faulting, the formation of numerous
of global eustatic sea level curves (e.g. Fleming sedimentary basins, many of which are very
et al., 1998; Bird et al., 2007) despite evidence deep, and localized but significant elevation of
of very young faulting and vertical movements mountains (Hall and Morley, 2004).
(e.g. Bird et al., 2006). It is true that currently
the interior of Sundaland is almost devoid of The upper mantle velocities and heat flow
seismicity and volcanic activity, in marked observations suggest the region is underlain by
contrast to its margins (Figs. 1 and 4). Seismicity a thin and weak lithosphere (Hall and Morley,
(Cardwell and Isacks, 1978; Engdahl et al., 1998) 2004) that extends many hundreds of
and GPS measurements (Rangin et al., 1999; kilometres from the volcanic margins (Fig. 8)
Michel et al., 2001; Bock et al., 2003; Simons et but is probably a long-term consequence of
al., 2007) suggest that at present a SE Asian or subduction (Currie and Hyndman, 2006)
Sunda microplate is currently moving slowly beneath Sundaland throughout much of the
relative to the Eurasian Plate. However, even if Mesozoic until the mid-Cretaceous and from
it is the case that very young deformation the Eocene to present day. Critically, such
suggest a rigid plate, this has not been typical of subduction back-arc lithosphere (Hyndman et
Sundaland in the Cenozoic. al., 2005; Currie and Hyndman, 2006) is not only
significantly weaker than cratonic lithosphere
The character of the Sundaland deep crust and but is likely to deform internally in response to
mantle is quite different from nearby plate boundary forces (Fig. 9) and to within-
continental regions in India and Australia, and plate forces generated by topography (Lynch
from cratons (Hall and Morley, 2004; Hyndman and Morgan, 1987; Whittaker et al., 1992;
et al., 2005; Currie and Hyndman, 2006). Unlike Zoback et al., 2002).
the well-known shields or cratons (e.g. Baltic,
Canadian, African, Australian) Sundaland is not Regionally, the entire area of Sundaland north
underlain by a thick cold lithosphere that was of the Java-Sunda trench and west of the
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Figure 3. The principal blocks in SE Asia. Ophiolitic/arc sutures are shaded in green. The pre-Cretaceous Sundaland
terranes are modified after Metcalfe (1996, 2011a,b) and Barber et al. (2005). West Sumatra, West Burma and
IndochinaEast Malaya formed part of a Cathaysian composite block added to Eurasia in the Palaeozoic. Sibumasu
was accreted along the BentongRaub suture in the Triassic. West Burma and West Sumatra moved along the
Sundaland margin to a position outboard of Sibumasu since then. The Woyla Arc was accreted in the Cretaceous.
The Luconia and Dangerous Grounds blocks include Cathaysian continental crust rifted from East Asia and added to
Sundaland during the Mesozoic in an East AsianPacific accretionary complex. SW Borneo, East JavaWest
Sulawesi, and SabahNW Sulawesi rifted from western Australia in the Late Jurassic and were added in the Late
Cretaceous. The area beneath South Sulawesi, Flores and Sumba is an extended part of the East JavaWest
Sulawesi block. The suture interpreted on the northwest side of this block is based on evidence from South
Sulawesi and its extension to the southwest is very speculative.

Philippine trench is underlain by weak lithospheric thickness, different internal


lithosphere and is very responsive to plate structures, crossed by sutures with different
boundary forces, but it is also heterogeneous. orientations, and cut by strike-slip faults of
The long accretionary history of the region different ages (e.g. Allen, 1962; Hamilton, 1979;
means that it is a composite mosaic of Sieh and Natawidjaja, 2000; Barber and Crow,
continental fragments (Fig. 3) with varying 2009).
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Figure 4. Seismicity in and around Sundaland between 1964 and 2000 (Engdahl et al., 1998).
Bathymetric contours are at 200m and 6000m.

Figure 5. 150 kilometre depth slice through the S20RTS shear wave tomographic model of Ritsema and van Heijst
(2000). High relative shear wave velocities are represented by blue and low velocities by red. Cratons are easily
identified; SE Asia is not among them.
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THE PRE-JURASSIC CORE OF SUNDALAND Triassic stages of suturing there was extensive
granite magmatism, associated first with
The western part of Sundaland (Fig. 2) was subduction preceding collision, and later with
essentially in its present form, and in a similar post-collisional thickening of the continental
position with respect to Asia, by the Early crust (Hutchison, 1989, 1996b). These granites
Mesozoic (Metcalfe, 1990, 1996, 2011a). This now extend from Thailand, through the Malay
region formed by amalgamation of continental Peninsula, to the Indonesian Tin Islands (e.g.
blocks and is surrounded by material added Cobbing et al., 1992).
later in the Mesozoic. Metcalfe (2011a,b)
provides the most comprehensive and recent Isotopic studies indicate the Malay Peninsula
accounts of the Palaeozoic to Early Mesozoic has a Proterozoic continental basement (Liew
history of the region and forms the basis of the and McCulloch, 1985; Liew and Page, 1985) and
summary here. zircon studies indicate that although
heterogeneous, both East Malaya and Sibumasu
IndochinaEast Malaya, Sibumasu, West have Proterozoic basements no older than 2.8
Sumatra Ga (Sevastjanova et al., 2011).
The eastern part of the core of Sundaland (Fig.
3) is the IndochinaEast Malaya block which West Burma
separated from Gondwana in the Devonian. By West Burma has been identified as a distinct
the Late Permian, North China, South China, block but the term has been used in different
IndochinaEast Malaya and the Sukhothai Arc ways by different authors and its origin remains
(e.g. Sone and Metcalfe 2008; Metcalfe controversial. Mitchell (1981) suggested that
2011a,b; Sevastjanova et al., 2011) formed a Western Burma was an island arc separated
composite Cathaysian continent (Barber and from mainland SE Asia by an oceanic marginal
Crow, 2009; Metcalfe, 2006, 2009) at equatorial basin which had closed by the mid Jurassic.
latitudes with warm-water Tethyan faunas and Mitchell (1986) proposed a microcontinental
low latitude floras. In contrast, Sibumasu (SI fragment named Mt Victoria Land which has a
Sino, BU Burma, MA Malaya, SU Sumatra; schist basement overlain by Triassic quartz-rich
Metcalfe, 1984, 2011a) is characterised by turbidites. He did not identify the origin of the
Carboniferous Permian glacial - marine fragment but showed it as separated by an
diamictites and Gondwana floras which indicate oceanic spreading ridge from the Shan-Thai
that it remained at high southern latitudes margin (approximately equivalent to northern
during the Late Palaeozoic glaciation. This block Sibumasu) in the Late Triassic and thrust
separated from Gondwana in the Early Permian underneath the Shan-Thai block in the latest
and amalgamated with the Cathaysian Jurassic or Early Cretaceous. Later Mitchell
continent to form the core of Sundaland during (1992) argued that Triassic turbidites in Burma
the Triassic. The West Sumatra block has a were deposited on the southern margin of Asia,
Cathaysian flora and fauna but is now outboard which he identified with the Shan-Thai foreland,
of Sibumasu. It is considered to have been part abandoning the separate Mt Victoria Land
of Cathaysia, and subsequently moved along block. West Burma was regarded by Gatinsky
the western margin of Sibumasu before the and Hutchison (1986) and Hutchison (1989) as a
Mesozoic (Barber, 2000; Barber et al., 2005; fragment that separated from Sibumasu in the
Barber and Crow, 2009). Triassic and re-amalgamated with it in the Early
Cretaceous. Barber and Crow (2009)
Separation of continental fragments from interpreted West Burma as a continuation of
Gondwana opened large Tethyan oceans but the West Sumatra block. They considered that
almost all oceanic crust was eliminated by both were part of Cathaysia by the Early
subduction. Abundant PermianTriassic tin belt Carboniferous and were detached along a major
granitoids were produced by subduction of this transcurrent fault and translated to a position
oceanic crust (Fig. 10). During the Permo outboard of Sibumasu (Barber et al., 2005;
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Figure 6. Depth slice at 300 km from the P wave tomographic model of Bijwaard and Spakman (2000). High P wave
velocities are represented by blue and low velocities by red. The slice shows high velocity anomalies interpreted as
subducted slabs around Indonesia, and relatively low velocities beneath Sundaland.

Figure 7. Contoured heat flow map for SE Asia, modified from Hall and Morley (2004). Heat flow values were taken
from global and regional compilations (Kenyon and Beddoes, 1977; Nagao et al., 1995; Pollack et al., 1993;
Rutherford and Qureshi, 1981).
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Figure 8. Heatflow across a trench, subduction backarc region and craton based on model of Hyndman et al.
(2005). Sundaland lithosphere is expected to be thin and weak, and lower crust is thin and hot.

Figure 9. Relative strengths of cratons and subduction backarc regions from Hyndman et al. (2005). Sundaland
lithosphere is expected to be very responsive to plate boundary forces, especially when wet.

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Barber and Crow, 2009). West Sumatra and Most of the fragments had rifted from Australia
West Burma are now separated from one in the Late Jurassic and their collisions ended
another by the Late Miocene Andaman Sea. For subduction around the SE Asia promontory at
all these authors the Mt Victoria Land or West about 90 Ma.
Burma block was essentially part of SE Asia from
the Late Triassic. SW Borneo
For many years SW Borneo was interpreted as a
In contrast, several authors (Sengr, 1987; fragment of Asian/Cathaysian origin (e.g.
Veevers, 1988; Metcalfe, 1990; Audley-Charles, Hutchison, 1989; Metcalfe, 1988, 1990, 1996).
1991) suggested that the Mt Victoria Land block The area of the Schwaner Mountains and
rifted from western Australia. Metcalfe (1996) further south has been described as the
later renamed it the West Burma block to avoid Basement Complex, Continental Core or
confusion with Victoria Land in Antarctica. He Sunda Shield of West Borneo (van Bemmelen,
suggested that West Burma was derived from 1949) or the West Borneo Basement (Haile,
NW Australia, and considered it a good 1974). SW Borneo lacks unmetamorphosed
candidate for part of the continental sliver that sedimentary rocks that could be used to
provided a source for sediments derived from correlate with other regions. It was considered
the northwest in Timor during the Triassic, and an ancient continental area, with the undated
which must have rifted from Gondwanaland in Pinoh Metamorphic Group interpreted to be
the Late Jurassic. This suggestion has since older than Triassic and plausible arguments to
become widely accepted despite the fact that suggest they were pre-Carboniferous (e.g. van
Metcalfe (1996) observed there was as yet no Bemmelen, 1949; Haile, 1974; Tate, 1991; Tate
convincing evidence for the origin of this [West and Hon, 1991). The metamorphic rocks were
Burma] block. According to this interpretation known to be intruded by Cretaceous Schwaner
West Burma separated from Australia in the granitoids. New work (Davies et al., 2014)
Late Jurassic and docked with SE Asia in the indicates the Pinoh Metamorphics are much
Early Cretaceous. younger than expected. All the metamorphic
rocks dated from the Pinoh Metamorphic Group
Here, the West Burma block is considered to of SW Borneo contain abundant Cretaceous
have been part of SE Asia since at least the Late zircons with age distributions suggesting they
Triassic (Fig. 11). Triassic sandstones on Timor are detrital, and the chemistry of the rocks
with a northern provenance have a heavy suggest they contain significant reworked
mineral population and detrital zircon ages volcanic material, probably ash. This suggests
identical to sandstones of the Birds Head that volcanic rocks were erupted in the Early
(Gunawan et al., 2012, 2014; Zimmerman and Cretaceous, reworked into sediments, buried
Hall, 2014). In contrast, Triassic sandstones and metamorphosed during extension probably
from West Burma are quite different, and associated with emplacement of the Schwaner
closely resemble those from Sibumasu in their batholith later in the Early Cretaceous.
heavy mineral and detrital zircon characteristics However, although all the metamorphic rocks at
(I.Sevastjanova, pers. comm., 2014). These data the surface appear to be have Cretaceous
support the reconstruction of West Burma of volcano-sedimentary protoliths, there are a few
Hall et al. (2009) and Hall (2012) as explained isotopic hints from granites of a Precambrian
below. basement beneath, and diamonds that suggest
an Australian basement.
MESOZOIC ADDITIONS TO SUNDALAND
Detrital diamonds are known from rivers
More continental blocks were added to draining the SW Borneo Block in the Kapuas
Sundaland in the Early and early Late River of West Kalimantan and the Barito and
Cretaceous (Figs. 2 and 3) to form what is now Meratus areas of SE Kalimantan. The source of
much of Borneo, East Java and West Sulawesi. the diamonds has not been identified and there
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are different opinions about their origin. Barron temperature metamorphic rocks. This zone
et al. (2008) suggested that the Cempaka (SE records subduction beneath Sundaland in the
Kalimantan) diamonds are similar to those from Early Cretaceous. Accretionary-collision
eastern Australia and argued for a subduction complexes resulting from subduction (Katili,
origin. Potential source rocks for such 1971, 1973; Sukamto, 1975a,b; Sikumbang,
subduction-related diamonds could be ultra- 1986, 1990; Wakita et al., 1994a,b, 1998;
high pressure (UHP) rocks from the Meratus Parkinson et al., 1998; Wakita, 2000) include
region (Parkinson et al., 1998), although no tectonic units formed by oceanic spreading, arc
diamonds have so far been reported from these volcanism, oceanic and forearc sedimentation,
rocks and many of the diamonds are much and subduction-related metamorphism. In the
larger than would be expected for subduction Luk Ulo Complex of Central Java are
products (Dobrzhinetskaya, 2012). serpentinised ultrabasic rocks, basalts, cherts,
limestones, siliceous shales, shales, volcanic
Subduction would be an improbable breccias, and high pressure-low temperature
explanation for diamonds in the Kapuas River and ultrahigh pressure metamorphic rocks
on the west side of Borneo where there is no (Parkinson et al., 1998; Wakita, 2000). In West
evidence for HP or UHP rocks. It is also Java similar rocks are exposed to the south of
noteworthy that there are no diamonds known Ciletuh Bay and include serpentinised
from Cathaysian blocks in other parts of SE Asia peridotites, gabbros, pillow basalts, and rare
supporting arguments against a Cathaysian metamorphic rocks such as quartzite and
origin for SW Borneo. Nitrogen aggregation amphibolite (Schiller et al., 1991; Clements et
characteristics reveal similarities between al., 2009). K-Ar ages from metamorphic rocks
Kalimantan and NW Australian diamonds summarised by Parkinson et al. (1998) indicate
(Taylor et al., 1990). Smith et al. (2009) showed high pressure-low temperature metamorphism
that the Borneo diamonds included several between 117 and 124 Ma, and radiolaria
groups interpreted to have been reworked from associated with pillow lavas at Luk Ulo are Early
multiple primary sources and argued that Cretaceous (Wakita et al., 1994b). These rocks
external morphology, internal structure, are overlain by Eocene sediments (Wakita,
inclusions, thermobarometry, and Archean Re- 2000; Smyth et al., 2008; Clements et al., 2009).
Os model ages from a sulfide inclusion, indicate In SE Kalimantan Sikumbang (1986, 1990) and
that Kalimantan diamonds formed in ancient Wakita et al. (1998) concluded that arc-
Gondwana sub-cratonic lithospheric mantle. continent collision and ophiolite emplacement
Griffin et al. (2001) and Metcalfe (2009) was completed by about 90 Ma.
suggested that alluvial diamonds of Burma,
Thailand and Sumatra were eroded from East Java
Permian glacial-marine diamictites of the Only a few outcrops of basement rocks are
Sibumasu Block, which was rifted from the known from East Java, but these, and results of
western Australian part of Gondwanaland. The oil company drilling offshore, seemed to
Borneo diamonds could have arrived in a similar support Hamiltons (1979) suggestion that the
way, but on the SW Borneo block, and basement was Cretaceous or Early Tertiary
subsequently reworked into river sediments melange. However, recent studies in East Java
from the basement or its sedimentary cover. show that the southern part of the island is
underlain by continental crust and suggest
Meratus there may be similar crust beneath the Java Sea
Hamilton (1979) drew a NE-SW line from West and in the forearc south of East Java.
Java to the Meratus Mountains of SE
Kalimantan as the approximate southeast Inherited zircons in Cenozoic sedimentary and
boundary of Cretaceous continental crust. To igneous rocks of East Java range in age from
the east of this line in Java and SE Borneo are Archean to Cenozoic. The distribution of zircons
ophiolitic, arc rocks and some high pressure-low reveals two different sources. Clastic rocks in
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north and west parts of East Java contain


Cretaceous zircons, which probably came from West SulawesiSumba
the West Java Luk UloMeratus suture, or More continental crust lies outboard of the
from SW Borneo. In contrast, the igneous rocks Meratus Mountains of Borneo. Several authors
of the Early Cenozoic Southern Mountains (e.g. Wakita et al., 1996; Parkinson et al., 1998;
volcanic arc, found along the southeast coast, van Leeuwen et al., 2007) have suggested that
include abundant volcanic rocks and minor Gondwana continental fragments were
intrusions of dacites and rhyolites. They contain accreted to Sundaland in the Cretaceous in SE
only Archaean to Cambrian zircons (Smyth, Kalimantan, western and south Sulawesi within
2005; Smyth et al., 2007, 2008). the region interpreted by Hamilton (1979) to be
melange. Jurassic ammonites and bivalves
Comparison of zircon UPb ages from East Java reported from South Sulawesi (Sukamto et al.,
with those from Western Australia support an 1990; Sukamto and Westermann 1993) also
Australian origin for the deep crust below East suggest an Australian continental fragment. In
Java. Compilations of geochronological data for some areas the basement is now dated, and it is
Australia (e.g. Neumann and Fraser, 2007; clearly not melange. In these areas and
Southgate et al., 2011) suggest that source elsewhere in western Sulawesi there is evidence
rocks for Archean zircons are common only in from inherited zircons, and from chemical
Western Australia, in the Pilbara (main characteristics of Cenozoic igneous rocks, of
population at 3.52.9 Ga), and Yilgarn Cratons underlying continental basement (Priadi et al.,
(main population at 2.72.6 Ga). The zircon 1993, 1994; Bergman et al., 1996; Polv et al.,
populations of East Java are similar (Smyth et 1997, 2001; Elburg and Foden, 1999; Elburg et
al., 2007). The similarities are suggested to al., 2003).
indicate a Gondwana continental fragment at
depth, which rifted from Australia during the Geochemistry and palaeomagnetism suggest
Late Jurassic and collided with Sundaland, that Sumba formed part of the Sundaland
resulting in the termination of Cretaceous margin by the Late Cretaceous (Abdullah et al.,
subduction. Continental crust was therefore 2000; Wensink, 1994). 3He/4He ratios suggest
present at depth beneath the arc in south Java that Australian continental crust was involved in
when Cenozoic subduction began in the Eocene. genesis of magmas throughout the inner Banda
Australian-origin continental crust has also been arc from the Banda Ridges to Flores (Hilton et
suggested to underlie parts of the southern al., 1992). Interpreting all these areas of
Makassar Straits and East Java Sea between continental crust as part of a single block may
Kalimantan and Java based on basement rocks be an over-simplification. There are blueschists
encountered in exploration wells (Manur and and other high pressure-low temperature
Barraclough, 1994). Offshore seismic data metamorphic rocks known from inliers in South
suggest there may be similar crust both to the Sulawesi (Sukamto and Supriatna, 1982;
north beneath the Java Sea (Emmet et al., 2009; Miyazaki et al., 1996, 1998; Parkinson et al.,
Granath et al., 2011) and south of East Java 1998; Maulana et al., 2010) suggesting sutures
(Deighton et al., 2011). In the Java Sea there is a between blocks. Neogene potassic volcanics in
broadly horizontal regional unconformity at the SW Sulawesi do not show the Australian
base of a Cenozoic section and beneath it are continental isotopic signatures shown by similar
synforms containing up to 510 km of section volcanic rocks further north in Sulawesi (Elburg
which Granath et al. (2011) suggest is of et al., 2003) which also could indicate an
Precambrian to PermianTriassic age. South of underlying suture.
Java the Cenozoic section is about 2 seconds
TWT thick and there is a broadly flat-lying SabahNW Sulawesi
sequence of more than 4 seconds TWT beneath Further north, Plio-Pleistocene basalts and
which Deighton et al. (2011) and Nugraha and basaltic andesites from the Semporna peninsula
Hall (2012) suggest is Mesozoic or older. of southern Sabah have isotopic characteristics
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that suggest an ancient, possibly Archaean, Sarawak and Semitau


component is present in the Sabah crust Undated schists of Sarawak (e.g. Tate, 1991;
(Macpherson et al., 2010). The western part of Hutchison, 2005) have been assumed to be
the north arm of Sulawesi includes Palaeozoic. Their age has been inferred from
Carboniferous granites (van Leeuwen et al., nearby unmetamorphosed limestones of
2007) associated with medium to high grade Permo-Carboniferous age with fossils of
quartzo-feldspathic mica schists and gneisses of Cathaysian characteristics (Fontaine, 1990).
the Malino Complex, and in the neck are There is good evidence for a Cathaysian origin
Permo-Triassic granites within the Palu of the limestones and Mesozoic sedimentary
Metamorphic Complex (van Leeuwen and rocks (see Hutchison, 2005, for review) in
Mujardho, 2005). Before Eocene opening of the Sarawak. There are also Triassic sedimentary
Celebes Sea south Sabah and NW Sulawesi rocks in Sarawak containing a fossil flora with
would have been closer together. The zircon Asian affinities (Vozenin-Serra, 1977). Hutchison
age populations of older metamorphic and (2005) reviewed the paleontological evidence
granitoid rocks of NW Sulawesi are similar to from the Sadong and Serian Formations of
the Birds Head of New Guinea suggesting an Sarawak and concluded that in the Triassic they
Australian origin (Hennig, 2014). were probably located in east Vietnam, or close
by, further supporting a Cathaysian origin for
The Woyla Arc and Sumatra Fragments west Sarawak. Some younger rocks in Sarawak
Wajzer et al. (1991) and Barber (2000) and NW Kalimantan may also have Cathaysian
interpreted the Woyla Group as a Late Jurassic affinities.
Early Cretaceous intra-oceanic arc and
accretionary complex which became sutured to The metamorphic rocks were interpreted as a
Sumatra by closure of a Tethyan ocean. It was Palaeozoic basement overlain by Permo-
initiated in the Late Jurassic and was accreted Carboniferous and Triassic sedimentary rocks
to Sumatra at about 90 Ma. Cameron et al. (e.g. Hutchison, 2005) accreted to Sundaland
(1980) postulated that the western portion of during the Sarawak orogeny (Hutchison, 1996a).
the Woyla Arc overlies an older continental They had been correlated with the Pinoh
block which they named the Sikuleh Continental metamorphics which were also undated but
Fragment based on a clastic succession of assumed to be Triassic or older. However, the
quartzites, grey phyllites and metasiltstones correlations into the Schwaner Mountains of
beneath the arc, and granites, Tertiary rhyolites SW Borneo were made across the Lupar Line
and Mo-bearing breccia pipes that cut the arc. (Tan, 1979), which represents a major suture
Pulunggono and Cameron (1984) proposed that (e.g. Haile, 1973; Williams et al., 1988), and/or
the Natal block was another continental the tectonic melange of the Boyan Zone. As
fragment for which the evidence was less summarised above the Pinoh metamorphics are
conclusive and based largely on the presence now known to be Cretaceous. Metcalfe (2011a)
of granites that intrude the Woyla Arc. These suggests all these rocks could be part of a small
blocks were suggested to have been fragments Semitau continental block sandwiched between
rifted from Sundaland or exotic fragments the Lupar and Boyan melanges. This is
accreted to it. Metcalfe (1996) suggested they supported by reports of Triassic metatonalites
were continental fragments of NW Australian from NW Kalimantan (Setiawan et al., 2013).
origin. However, Barber (2000) and Barber and
Crow (2005) reviewed these proposals and Luconia and Dangerous Grounds
concluded that there is no convincing evidence The area east of the IndochinaEast Malaya
for any microcontinental blocks accreted to the block is submerged at present and is overlain by
margin of Sundaland in the Cretaceous. They Cenozoic rocks, and therefore little is known
interpreted the Sikuleh and Natal fragments as about the nature of the crust beneath it. Upper
part of the Woyla intra-oceanic arc. Triassic deltaic sandstones with a
Dictyophyllum-Clathropteris flora and
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Figure 10. A schematic model for the PermianTriassic subduction of the Palaeo-Tethys ocean and the Sibumasu
East Malaya collision from Sevastjanova et al. (2011), modified from Metcalfe (2011) and based on Metcalfe (2000,
2009), Sone and Metcalfe (2008) and Barber and Crow (2009). This model identifies two distinct PermianTriassic
magmatic episodes in the Eastern Province produced from different sources. Permian crustal-derived granitoids
intruded into the East Malaya Block were most likely subduction-related, whereas Triassic mixed crustal- and
mantle-derived Eastern Province granitoids were emplaced along the faults. The Sukhothai Arc is interpreted as an
arc built on a continental sliver. BRSZ BentongRaub Suture Zone.
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Cretaceous metamorphic rocks dredged from wide accretionary complex, including


the Dangerous Grounds in the South China Sea ophiolitic/arc rocks, metamorphic rocks and
(Kudrass et al., 1986) suggest that this area Cathaysian sedimentary rocks, of different ages,
includes rocks of Cathaysian origin (e.g. Hall et which represent an active subduction/
al., 2009; Hall, 2011, 2012) similar to those of accretionary continental margin that formed
Sarawak (Hutchison, 2005). the AsiaPacific plate boundary from the
Triassic to the early Late Cretaceous.
Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous igneous rocks
are abundant in SE China (e.g. Jahn et al., 1976; RECONSTRUCTIONS
Li, 2000; Wu et al., 2005), near Hong Kong
(Davis et al., 1997; Sewell et al., 2000), and in The present western part of the region, mainly
the South China Sea (e.g. Li and Li, 2007). Jahn in Malaysia and Sumatra, is the oldest part of
et al. (1976) interpreted Cretaceous granitoids the Sundaland continent and was assembled in
of SE Asia as products of west-directed Pacific the Late Palaeozoic and Triassic as described by
subduction. Other authors have argued for an Metcalfe (2011a, b). Fig. 10 shows a series of
extensional tectonic setting in SE China, schematic cross sections from Sevastjanova et
because of widely-developed metamorphic core al. (2011) illustrating this development and
complexes, common A-type granitoids, and incorporating modifications to the granite
alkaline rocks (e.g. Li, 2000; Wu et al., 2005). plutonic magmatic history based on zircon
The two interpretations may not be studies. After the Late Triassic amalgamation of
incompatible. Based on geophysical data, Zhou IndochinaEast Malaya, the Sukhothai Arc and
et al. (2008) traced a JurassicEarly Cretaceous Sibumasu (Fig. 11) much of western Sundaland
subduction complex south from Taiwan along became emergent. Mesozoic terrestrial
the present northern margin of the South China deposits are not extensive (except in northern
Sea. They interpret this subduction complex to Sundaland from the Khorat to the Lanping
have been displaced to Palawan by opening of Siamo fold belt region) but are found
the South China Sea. The Early Cretaceous throughout Sundaland; Mesozoic marine
granitoids (Nguyen et al., 2004; Thuy et al., deposits are rare.
2004) continue southwards into east Vietnam. It
is notable that there are no Cretaceous From the Triassic onwards there was west-
granitoids younger than 80 Ma in the area directed subduction of Pacific plates at the East
suggesting a major tectonic change at about Asian margin until the early Late Cretaceous.
this time. This formed the accretionary complex that
underlies Sarawak, the offshore Luconia
The various igneous, metamorphic and Dangerous Grounds areas, and probably
sedimentary rocks dredged offshore were Palawan, on the NE side of Sundaland. From the
interpreted by Hall et al. (2009) and Hall (2012) Jurassic onwards much of Indochina southwards
to be part of a LuconiaDangerous Grounds through the Thai-Malay Peninsula and parts of
block. They resemble those on land in Sarawak the present Sunda Shelf as far south as Sumatra
which typically form very small exposures was an emergent area of land, probably largely
without observable contacts with other rocks. surrounded by subduction zones, implying that
There are also many reasons to doubt a single the margins included volcanoes and mountains.
event with collision of a Luconia block during a The limited geological record that is preserved
Sarawak orogeny postulated by Hutchison suggests that most of the interior of this region
(1996a), as discussed by Hall (2012) and Hall was the site of deposition of terrestrial clastic
and Sevastjanova (2012). It here considered sediments during the Jurassic and Early
more likely that the metamorphic rocks are not Cretaceous (Abdullah, 2009; Racey and Goodall,
a Palaeozoic basement but instead that 2009; Clements et al., 2011).
Sarawak, the offshore LuconiaDangerous
Grounds areas, and Palawan are underlain by a
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Figure 11. Late Triassic reconstruction based on Hall (2012) and Metcalfe (2011a) showing the position of West
Burma and blocks that later separated from the northern Australian margin in the Jurassic. EJ-WS: East Java-West
Sulawesi = Argo; SWB: SW Borneo = Banda; S-NWS: Sabah-NW Sulawesi = Inner Banda.

Hall et al. (2009) and Hall (2011, 2012) for the Australian origin of these fragments
interpreted SW Borneo as a Banda block and outlined above and the age of rifting on the NW
crust beneath eastern Sabah and NW Sulawesi Shelf (Pigram and Panggabean 1984; Powell et
as a small Inner Banda block. These fragments al., 1988; Fullerton et al., 1989; Robb et al.,
separated from Australia in the Jurassic, leaving 2005).
the Banda oceanic embayment south of a
continental promontory, the Sula Spur (Klomp, Fig. 12 shows the movement of these blocks
1954). East JavaWest Sulawesi is interpreted northward and their progressive addition to the
to be the Argo block that prior to separation Sundaland margin based on Hall et al. (2009)
from Australia formed the offshore and Hall (2011, 2012). SW Borneo accreted to
continuation of the Canning Basin, whose Sundaland in the Early Cretaceous between
detrital sediments provided Archean and about 115 and 110 Ma along the Billiton
Proterozoic zircons now found in East Java. This lineament that runs south from the Natuna area
interpretation is consistent with the evidence (Ben-Avraham and Emery, 1973). The East Java
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Figure 12. Reconstructions at 150, 110, 90 and 50 Ma, modified from Hall (2012). A is Argo which became East
Java-West Sulawesi (EJ-WS); Ba is Banda which became SW Borneo (SWB); IB is Inner Banda which became Sabah-
NW Sulawesi (S-NWS). Luc-DG is the Luconia and Dangerous Ground blocks which formed in a wide accretionary
complex that existed at the East Asian-Pacific subduction margin from the Late Triassic to the early Late
Cretaceous.

West Sulawesi block and Sabah-NW Sulawesi Clements et al. (2011) suggested that the
block were added to SE Asia at about 90 Ma and termination of subduction in the early Late
the collision is marked by a suture that runs Cretaceous contributed to widespread uplift of
from West Java through the Meratus Mountains Sundaland, marked by a major regional
northwards (Hamilton, 1979; Parkinson et al., unconformity. This was the final stage in the
1998). At the same time as this collision, the formation of the Sundaland continent. Rocks
Woyla intra-oceanic arc collided with the below the unconformity are Cretaceous or
Sumatran margin of western Sundaland (Barber older, and above are Eocene or younger,
et al., 2005). representing a time gap of more than 80 million
years (Clements et al., 2011). Most of
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Sundaland was an emergent region, and Research Fund, the Natural Environment
mountainous, supported by the presence of Research Council, and the Royal Society. In SE
Laurasian conifer pollen (Muller, 1968) in Asia we have been greatly aided by colleagues
Sarawak sandstones, from the Late Cretaceous from Pusat Survei Geologi Bandung, Lemigas,
to Middle Eocene. The few rocks of this age that Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Institut
are preserved, notably in Sarawak and NW Teknologi Bandung, University of Malaya,
Kalimantan, are predominantly terrestrial clastic University Malaysia Sabah, and the Mineral and
sediments deposited by rivers, except at the Geoscience Department of Malaysia and
extreme margins of Sundaland in Sarawak, Sarawak. I thank many colleagues, friends and
Sabah, West Sulawesi, and probably offshore students in the UK, Europe and SE Asia for help
East Java, where there are poorly dated deep and discussion.
marine clastic deposits. A prolonged period of
emergence and multiple episodes of recycling
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