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The Caledonian Orogeny lasted from the late Cambrian to the Devonian with the main collisional events occurring during Ordovician and Silurian times. Direct evidence of the extent of this orogenic event across central Europe is limited because of the lack of outcrops of this age. The Caledonian Orogeny, together with the subsequent Variscan and Alpine orogenies, is one of a succession of major tectonic events which have defined the geological evolution of Central Europe. Thus, the present configuration and condition of the lithosphere of central Europe is the result of superimposed periods of deformation (Fig. 7.1). Consequently, a wide range of investigative techniques needs to be employed to unravel these events in order to determine the properties of the various elements of the Caledonides and to elucidate the evolution of the Caledonian Orogeny. Additionally, evidence of the orogeny is deeply buried beneath thick successions of younger sediments, e.g. Dutch and North German Basin, or has been reworked extensively by later events, e.g. Belgium or to the SE of the Trans-European Suture Zone.

The word ‘Caledonia’, the Latin name for northern Scotland, was used by Eduard Suess (1885-1909) not only to describe a geographic region but also to indicate an orogen he termed ‘Caledonisches Gebirge’. Furthermore, Suess was the first to put his definition into a tectonic context: ‘Die in der Kaledonischen Faltungsära gebildeten Gebirge treten vor allem in Irland, Wales, Schottland und im Westteil Skandinaviens in Erscheinung’. [The mountains built during the Caledonian folding era appear particularly in Ireland,

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