Wood, B.G.M. 2015. Rethinking post-Hercynian basin development: Eastern Mediterranean Region. GeoArabia, 2015, v. 20, no. 3, p. 175-224.


The geological community has broadly accepted that the region of NE Africa and NW Arabia deformed under tension during the post-Hercynian disintegration of northern Gondwana. Further, it has also generally accepted that sedimentation occurred within extensional half-grabens that formed along the length of what was then the southern margin of the Neo-Tethys Ocean. Consensus is that Alpine age compression then forced inversion of these half-grabens to form the well-known Syrian Arc structures that stretch from the Western Desert of Egypt to NE Syria. As new data has become available (Enclosures I and II), there are indications that an alternative mechanism, founded in continuous compression rather than extension then compression, better explains the tectonics and sedimentary history of the region since the late Palaeozoic. Data from Syria, Jordan, the Levant and Egypt demonstrate that distinct post- Hercynian Orogeny, Tethyan and Alpine sequences (basins) lie on a final, deeply eroded and folded Hercynian Unconformity, and that this surface refolded post- Hercynian time to form the confining walls of a single trough extending from NE Syria to the Western Desert of Egypt. Prior to the deposition of the first Tethyan basin in the late Carboniferous, the Hercynian Unconformity surface deformed to establish a plate-scale arch, the Levant Arch, that extended from NE Syria and southern Turkey, over 1,500 km southwest to the three corners region of Egypt, Sudan and Libya. This arch refolded in the late Palaeozoic to form the early Levant Trough composed of the Palmyride Trough, its extension under the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant, through the Sinai and into western Egypt. Contrary to the now established idea that the southern margin of the Carboniferous–Permian Tethyan Ocean was a “passive margin”, the trough and internally constrained basins, slowly narrowed and deepened under continuous compression from the southeast from at least the late Palaeozoic to the Present. Each internal, distinct basin sequence is well defined by long periods of slow, low-energy, laterally persistent, sedimentation, separated from underlying and overlying basin sequences by almost equally long periods of erosion or nondeposition, coincident with increased regional structuring and volcanism. Each new basin, following a cessation of this regional structural activity, found itself nested within its predecessor, with the older basin lying slightly counterclockwise to the younger. It is proposed that counter-clockwise, regional (and basin) rotation was facilitated by newly documented NW-oriented cross-shears, with inter-basin periods of erosion or non-deposition due to whole-basin (regional) uplift, forced by trough narrowing. Tectonic-scale geologic features, such as cross-basin and regional shears, trough margin uplift and northwest migration, laterally extensive, sheet-like sedimentation, sediment feathering onto unfaulted margins, regional erosion related to whole-basin uplift and massive flank gravity sliding with resultant down-slope buckle folding, taken together, attest to compression as the driving agent. Whole-basin and regional, counter-clockwise rotation through time, suggests a constant direction of compression. Understanding the correlation of sedimentary fill to local and regional structural events brings new insight to the deformation of the northern regions of Gondwana during the closure of Tethyan oceans. This model may also apply on a larger scale of whole-plate deformation.

MEGREF : 16319
Publication Year : 2015
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