Publication Details

Ali, S. A., Nutman, A. P., Aswad, K. J. & Jones, B. G. (2019). Overview of the tectonic evolution of the Iraqi Zagros thrust zone: Sixty million years of Neotethyan ocean subduction. Journal of Geodynamics, 129 162-177.


The world's largest ongoing collisional orogeny is the Europe Alps-Himalayan-SE Asian belt and is a natural laboratory to understand many processes that have shaped the continents. Due to political instability and conflict throughout this millennium, the Iraq (Kurdish) sector of the Zagros mountain chain is the least studied part of this orogenic system. In Iraq, the Zagros contains the suture between the Arabian subcontinent to the south and west and the Iranian edge of the Eurasian continent to the north and east. The suture zone is marked by several allochthons of Neotethyan ophiolitic and volcanic arc assemblages that were obducted onto the Arabian margin. New geochronological data, including SHRIMP U-Pb zircon, integrated with whole rock geochemistry, indicates that both Cretaceous (˜96 Ma) and Cenozoic (˜40 Ma) assemblages are present. The relationships between these units are complicated, thus some Cretaceous arc rocks were intruded by Cenozoic arc rocks, and out-of-sequence thrusting has interleaved and juxtaposed assemblages of different ages. Ongoing wrench faulting since continental collision at ˜14 Ma has further complicated the pattern of lithotectonic units, particularly those that were obducted out of the Neotethyan realm. The new data indicate that the Iraqi sector of Neotethys was not 'quiet' in the Cretaceous, but contains fragments of arcs of that age, contiguous with those along strike in Turkey, Iran and the Himalayas.



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