The Mediterranean region; a geological primer

  • Cavazza W
  • Wezel F
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The last twenty-five years of geological investigation of the Mediterranean region have disproved the traditional notion that the Alpine-Himalayan mountain ranges originated from the closure of a single, albeit complex, oceanic domain--the Tethys. Instead, the present-day geological configuration of the Mediterranean region is the result of the creation and ensuing consumption of two major oceanic basins--the Paleotethys and the Neotethys--and of additional smaller oceanic basins within an overall regime of prolonged interaction between the Eurasian and the African-Arabian plates. In greater detail, there is still some debate about exactly what Tethys existed at what time. A consensus exists as to the presence of (i) a mainly Paleozoic paleotethyan ocean north of the Cimmerian continent(s); (ii) a younger late Paleozoic-Mesozoic neotethyan ocean located south of this continent, and finally; (iii) a middle Jurassic ocean, the Alpine Tethys-Valais, an extension of the central Atlantic ocean in the western Tethyan domain. Additional late Paleozoic to Mesozoic back-arc marginal basins along the active Eurasian margin complicated somewhat this simple picture. The closure of these heterogeneous oceanic domains produced a system of connected yet discrete orogenic belts which vary in terms of timing, tectonic setting and internal architecture, and cannot be interpreted as the end product of a single "Alpine" orogenic cycle. In Neogene time, following prolonged indentation along the Alpine front, a number of small continental microterranes (Kabylies, Balearic Islands, Sardinia-Corsica, Calabria) rifted off the European-Iberian continental margin and drifted toward south or southeast, leaving in their wake areas of thinned continental crust (e.g. Valencia Trough) or small oceanic basins (Algerian, Provencal and Tyrrhenian basins). The E Mediterranean is similarly characterized by widespread Neogene extensional tectonism, as indicated by thinning of continental crust along low-angle detachment faults in the Aegean Sea and the periaegean regions. Overall, Neogene extension in the Mediterranean can be explained as the result of roll-back of the N-dipping subducting slab along the Ionian-E Mediterranean subduction zones. The complex Neogene geologic scenario of the Mediterranean is complicated further by the deposition of widespread evaporites during Messinian (late Miocene) time.

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  • Sardegna nuovo

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  • PMID: 35377
  • PUI: 37354042
  • ISBN: 0705-3797
  • ISSN: 0705-3797
  • SGR: 0242306890
  • SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-0242306890


  • William Cavazza

  • Forese Carlo Wezel

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