Late cretaceous-early eocene tectonic development of the tethyan suture zone in the Erzincan area, Eastern Pontides, Turkey

Samuel P. Rice, Alastair H.F. Robertson, Timur Ustaömer, Nurdan Inan, Kemal Taslı

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Six individual tectonostratigraphic units are identified within the İzmir–Ankara–Erzincan Suture Zone in the critical Erzincan area of the Eastern Pontides. The Ayıkayası Formation of Campanian–Maastrichtian age is composed of bedded pelagic limestones intercalated with polymict, massive conglomerates. The Ayıkayası Formation conformably overlies the Tauride passive margin sequence in the Munzur Mountains to the south and is interpreted as an underfilled foredeep basin. The Refahiye Complex, of possible Late Cretaceous age, is a partial ophiolite composed of ~75% (by volume) serpentinized peridotite (mainly harzburgite), ~20% diabase and minor amounts of gabbro and plagiogranite. The complex is interpreted as oceanic lithosphere that formed by spreading above a subduction zone. Unusual screens of metamorphic rocks (e.g. marble and schist) locally occur between sheeted diabase dykes. The Upper Cretaceous Karayaprak Mélange exhibits two lithological associations: (1) the basalt + radiolarite + serpentinite association, including depleted arc-type basalts; (2) the massive neritic limestone + lava + volcaniclastic association that includes fractionated, intermediate-composition lavas, and is interpreted as accreted Neotethyan seamount(s). The several-kilometre-thick Karadağ Formation, of Campanian–Maastrichtian age, is composed of greenschist-facies volcanogenic rocks of mainly basaltic to andesitic composition, and is interpreted as an emplaced Upper Cretaceous volcanic arc. The Campanian–Early Eocene Sütpınar Formation (~1500 m thick) is a coarsening-upward succession of turbiditic calcarenite, sandstone, laminated mudrock, volcaniclastic sedimentary rocks that includes rare andesitic lava, and is interpreted as a regressive forearc basin. The Late Paleocene–Eocene Sipikör Formation is a laterally varied succession of shallow-marine carbonate and siliciclastic lithofacies that overlies deformed Upper Cretaceous units with an angular unconformity. Structural study indicates that the assembled accretionary prism, supra-subduction zone-type oceanic lithosphere and volcanic arc units were emplaced northwards onto the Eurasian margin and also southwards onto the Tauride (Gondwana-related) margin during Campanian–Maastrichtian time. Further, mainly southward thrusting took place during the Eocene in this area, related to final closure of Tethys. Our preferred tectonic model involves northward subduction, supra-subduction zone ophiolite genesis and arc magmatism near the northerly, Eurasian margin of the Mesozoic Tethys.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-590
Number of pages24
JournalGeological Magazine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Tethys
  • Pontides
  • Stratigraphy
  • Suture zone
  • Turkey


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