The Tambien Group, Northern Ethiopia (Tigre)
Nathan R. Miller, Dov Avigad, Robert J. Stern, Michael Beyth, 2011. "The Tambien Group, Northern Ethiopia (Tigre)", The Geological Record of Neoproterozoic Glaciations, Emmanuelle Arnaud, Galen P. Halverson, Graham Shields-Zhou
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The Tambien Group of northern Ethiopia (Tigre), with probable correlatives in Eritrea, is a 2–3-km-thick siliciclastic–carbonate succession that was deposited in an intra-oceanic arc platform setting within the southern Arabian–Nubian Shield (ANS) area (southern extension of the Nakfa Terrane) of the Mozambique Ocean. Its deposition occurred prior to ocean closure between converging fragments of East and West Gondwana and concomitant structural emergence of the East African Orogen (EAO). The Tambien Group is well exposed and best studied in the Mai Kenetal and Negash synclinoria, where litho- and chemostratigraphy (including δ13Ccarb, 87Sr/86Sr) provide the basis for a composite reference section. Two glaciogenic intervals have been suggested from exposures within the Didikama and Matheos Formation in the Negash Synclinorium. No reliable palaeomagnetic data exist to constrain the palaeolatitude of Tambien Group deposition and the southern ANS, but palaeogeographic reconstructions and evaporite pseudomorphs in lower carbonate units (Didikama Formation) imply low to intermediate latitudes (<45°). Integration of available geochronological information (regional magmatism and detrital zircon) suggests c. 775–660 Ma as a plausible window constraining deposition of the prospective glacial intervals.
The Tambien Group appears to preserve a coherent chemostratigraphic framework that can be effectively subdivided according to shifts in δ13Ccarb polarity [polarity intervals A (+), B (–), C (+), D (–)]. Slates underlying and interstratified with polarity interval A carbonate preserve evidence of extreme chemical weathering that lessened prior to deposition of polarity interval B carbonate. Tambien Group carbonate units have sedimentological characteristics consistent with both shallow and deeper marine depositional settings. The lower prospective glacial interval lacks diagnostic sedimentological evidence of synglacial deposition, but is overlain by negative δ13C carbonate (polarity interval B) with sedimentological characteristics consistent with well-documented cap-carbonate successions. The upper prospective glacial interval in the Negash Synclinorium (Matheos Diamictite) best exhibits characteristics consistent with glaciogenic deposition (matrix-supported polymictic clasts, possible dropstones, possible bullet-nosed and striated clasts). In contrast to pericratonic rift margin settings that are common for Cryogenian glaciogenic deposits, palaeogeographic reconstructions for the 775–660 Ma timeframe place northern Ethiopia within an intra-oceanic setting that was likely far removed from cratonic hinterlands. More work on Tambien Group sedimentology, geochronology and palaeogeography is required to better evaluate the extent and timing of glacial conditions associated with the prospective glaciogenic intervals.
Supplementary Table 21.1 of Tambien Group geochronological age constraints is available at http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/SUP18462.
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In recent years, interest in Neoproterozoic glaciations has grown as their pivotal role in Earth system evolution has become increasingly clear. One of the main goals of the IGCP Project No. 512 was to produce a synthesis of newly available information on Neoproterozoic successions worldwide similar in format to Hambrey & Harland’s (1981) Earth’s pre-Pleistocene Glacial Record. This Memoir therefore consists of a series of overview chapters followed by site-specific chapters. The overview chapters cover key topics including the history of research on Neoproterozoic glaciations, identification of glacial deposits, chemostratigraphic techniques and datasets, palaeomagnetism, biostratigraphy, geochronology and climate modelling. The site specific chapters for 60 successions worldwide include reviews of the history of research on these rocks and up-to-date syntheses of the structural framework, tectonic setting, palaeomagnetic and geochronological constraints, physical, biological, and chemical stratigraphy, and descriptions of the glaciogenic and associated strata, including economic deposits.