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Abstract

Evidence of Early- to Mid-Cryogenian (c. 780 Ma and c. 740 Ma) glacial activity is summarized for the northern Arabian–Nubian Shield (ANS), including structural framework, stratigraphy, lithological descriptions and relationships with younger and older units, banded iron formation chemostratigraphy, other characteristics, geochronological constraints, and discussion. The ANS is a broad tract of juvenile continental crust, formed from accreted arc-backarc basin terranes developed around the margins of the Mozambique Ocean. As a result, these successions formed in marine environments at some distance from continental margins. Deposits include banded iron formation (BIF) and possibly glacial diamictite scattered over broad regions of the Central Eastern Desert of Egypt, NW Arabia and possible correlative units in NE Sudan. The older (c. 780 Ma) examples (Meritri group, NE Sudan; basal Mahd group, Arabia) occur in the central ANS, on the southern flank of an important lithospheric boundary, an ophiolite-decorated suture zone. Mahd group diamictite is thin (1–5 m thick) and rests above the earliest (Cryogenian) ANS unconformity. The Meritri group interval near Port Sudan is much thicker and part of a deformed passive margin. Both Mahd and Meritri group deposits need further study before they are accepted as glaciogenic; confirmation of this interpretation would indicate that Neoproterozoic glacial activity began at least as early as 780 Ma ago. The younger (c. 740 Ma) glacial deposits include diamictite and BIF: the Atud diamictite and BIFs of the Central Eastern Desert of Egypt and the correlative Nuwaybah diamictite and BIF of NW Arabia. Northern ANS-BIF is a well-layered chemical sediment of interlaminated hematite-magnetite and jasper. A glacial origin for the Atud-Nuwaybah diamictites is inferred because large clasts and matrix zircons have ages (Palaeoproterozoic and Neoarchean) and compositions (especially quartzite, arkose, and microdiamictite) that require transport from outside the ANS Cryogenian basin. Northern ANS-BIF may also reveal glacial influence, having been deposited in response to reoxygenation of a suboxic ocean. The 740 Ma diamictite and/or BIF may correlate with Tambien Group diamictites in Ethiopia (Miller et al. 2011). Northern ANS diamictite and BIF were deposited in an oceanic basin of unknown size, as indicated by association with abundant ophiolites; they are strongly deformed, obscuring many primary features.

There is no strong evidence for or against Ediacaran glaciation in the ANS, largely because the region was uplifted at this time. The c. 600 Ma ANS peneplain may have been partly cut by Ediacaran glaciation. Some of the post-accretionary basins of Arabia could preserve glaciogenic deposits of Ediacaran age, but assessing this possibility requires further investigation.

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