Abstract

The south Caspian intracontinental depression, floored by oceanic basement, is a relatively stable block, with minor deformation, surrounded by active fold-thrust belts of arcuate form (Talesh, Alborz, and Kopeh Dagh Mountains), which have undergone intense late Cainozoic crustal shortening. The basin is interpreted as a Neogene–Quaternary "compressional depression," bounded by multi-role mountain-bordering reverse faults, and apparently floored by a late Paleozoic – Triassic or late Mesozoic – early Tertiary "modified oceanic crust" trapped along an old geosuture. It may be a relic of an old (Paleozoic–Triassic) ocean, or else a marginal sea developed behind a Mesozoic–Paleogene ocean, and analysis of geological and geophysical data enables a scheme to be suggested. The general arcuate shape of the Alborz and the Talesh bordering mountain belts follows the pattern of the supposed rigid and thickened ocean crust of south Caspian depression.A tectono-sedimentary study of the south Caspian region, coupled with the body-wave modelling of a recent earthquake along one of the bordering faults, may suggest a possible flattening of the fault with depth (listric thrust), and that the estimate of the focal depth of the regional earthquakes based on teleseismic arrival time data is not accurate. The difference in elevation between the depression and the bordering active fold-thrust belts is caused by a difference in crustal structure and reverse faulting during a dominant compressional tectonic regime.The study may add support to the idea that old continental deep-seated multi-role faults, which have controlled the sedimentary facies and basins during different geological times and were responsible for the formation of the present physiographic feature, are the site of the present seismic activity in the orogenic belts.

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