Abstract

Maps of the paleography of Iran are presented to summarize and review the geological evolution of the Iranian region since late Precambrian time. On the basis of the data presented in this way reconstructions of the region have been prepared that take account of the known major movements of continental masses. These reconstructions, which appear at the beginning of the paper, show some striking features, many of which were poorly appreciated previously in the evolution of the region. They include the closing of the 'Hercynian Ocean' by the northward motion of the Central Iranian continental fragment(s), the apparently simultaneous opening of a new ocean ('the High-Zagros Alpine Ocean') south of Iran, and the formation of 'small rift zones of oceanic character' together with the attenuation of continental crust in Central Iran.With the disappearance of the Hercynian Ocean, the floor of the High-Zagros Alpine Ocean started to subduct beneath southern Central Iran and apparently disappeared by Late Cretaceous – Early Paleocene time (65 Ma). From this time the compressional motion between Arabia and Eurasia has been accommodated in Iran by shortening and thickening of the continental crust. This crustal thickening is accompanied by a progressive, though eventful, transition from marine to continental conditions over the whole region.A striking feature highlighted in this study is the existence of extensive alkaline and calc-alkaline volcanics, which appear to be unrelated to subduction. The intrusion of these rocks started in Middle Eocene time (45 Ma) and extended to the present. It is clear that some major fault systems have played a continuous but varied role from the Precambrian until the present, and whatever controlled the original fold orientation at the onset of continental compression (65 Ma) apparently still controls the orientation of contemporary folding.

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