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Paleocene sediments are not thick in the Spanish Basque Country (usually less than 200 m), largely composed of stacks of hemipelagic limestones and marls deposited in a clastic-starved deep basin. In addition to these, resedimented carbonates accumulated on base-of-slope aprons girding the basin, and resedimented carbonates plus lesser amounts of coarse-grained siliciclastics discontinuously plugged a deep-sea channel system incised on the basin floor.

Third-order depositional sequences that attest to sea-level changes have earlier been recognized in the apron and channel systems (Pujalte et al., 1993). Further analyses have now demonstrated that these sea-level changes are also expressed in the hemipelagic sections by means of basin-wide variations in sedimentation rates through time, relative proportions of limestones and marls and, locally, the type of turbidite intercalations. The building blocks of these sequences are high-order stratification cycles, probably tuned to Milankovitch frequencies. Since these hemipelagic sections contain a nearly continuous stratigraphic record, a reliable reconstruction of the Paleocene sea-level changes that affected the Basque basin has been possible.

A good match has been found between the regional sea-level curve derived from the deep-sea record and that of the global chart of Haq et al. (1988), mainly based on coastal onlap. This correlation clearly demonstrates that the signature of sea-level changes can be confidently unravelled from deep-marine successions, though it remains to be seen whether it reflects an eustatic signature or a bias of the data base.

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