Abstract

Far-field compressional stresses resulting from arc collisions with the northeast coast of Africa-Arabia propagated across the African plate in the Santonian (ca. 84 Ma), and later similar pulses occurred through much of the Cenozoic. Waves of inversion-related features including folds, thrusts, and igneous activity developed during the compressional events. Structures generated were uneven in intensity and distribution, and were commonly concentrated in existing rifts. Because of the irregular shapes of the North African continental margin and associated inboard basins, Cyrenaica underwent the most severe shortening, although deformation extended eastward from Libya to the Levant. Areas south and southeast of Cyrenaica (the Sirt Basin and the far Western Desert of Egypt) underwent very little shortening because they occupied a regional strain shadow. The eastern region of the Western Desert and Sinai, which were not sheltered by the stress-absorbing Cyrenaica inversion, recorded strong compressional deformation synchronous with that in Cyrenaica. As closure of the Mediterranean continues, Cyrenaica will become an indenter comparable to those of other orogenic belts. The detailed tectonic evolution of individual northeast African basins has depended on their positions in relation to the Cyrenaican strain shadow. No single subsidence and paleostress history reflects the complete regional development of the converging Mediterranean–North African margin.

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