Late Triassic Radiolaria have been recovered from a bedded chert collected early in 1977 in the South Orkney islands. This is the first reliable palaeontological evidence for the age of the so-called basement complex that forms most of the exposed rock of a microcontinent on the southern limb of the Scotia Ridge. The fossils place a lower limit on the age of deformation of at least part of the complex as post-Karnian or Norian. The basement is overlain by undeformed Jurassic to Cretaceous conglomerates, which suggests this event took place during the early Mesozoic Gondwanian orogeny. The new data are consistent with the interpretation that the basement complex of the South Orkney Islands represents part of a subduction complex and was accreted to the Pacific margin of Gondwanaland during the late Triassic or early Jurassic time.