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Tertiary (Palaeogene and Neogene) deposits crop out widely across both the Iberian peninsula and the Balearic Islands (Fig. 13.1), and record a dramatic sequence of events during plate convergence. The anticlockwise rotation of an initially isolated Mesozoic Iberian plate was followed by late Cretaceous– Cenozoic interaction with both the European and African plates. This ultimately created two great Alpine mountain belts (Pyrenean-Basque-Cantabrian and Betic-Balearic) (Fig. 13.1), each of which generated major Cenozoic foreland basins (Ebro and Guadalquivir). Away from these mountain belts, two large Cenozoic intraplate depressions (Duero and Tajo basins) flank a central horst (Central Range). Another important group of depocentres occurs within a string of Neogene grabens situated along the eastern side of mainland Spain (Fig. 13.1), forming part of a long-lived and still-active extensional system linking the Valencia trough with the Rhine and Rhone grabens in Germany and France. Further SE, Neogene extension propagated from the Valencian trough into the southern Betic orogen and created a series of basins from Alicante to Granada and beyond. Tertiary sedimentary rocks in Spain were thus deposited during and after Alpine compression in the Iberian area. This chapter summarizes the main characteristics of these sediments, moving broadly from north to south, a direction reflecting the diachronous shift in Cenozoic Alpine deformation from the Pyrenees to the Betic-Balearic region.

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