Fragments of Late Proterozoic ocean crust and mantle (ophiolites) occur within six major fault zones that mark sutures between crustal blocks (microplates) that were accreted between about 630 and 715 Ma to form the Arabian Shield. We report new U-Pb zircon ages for ophiolitic gabbro, diorite, and plagiogranite that range from 840 to 700 Ma and establish these complexes among the oldest proven ophiolites.

By dating the ophiolitic rocks we are able to monitor the magmatic ages of sea-floor spreading events during accretion of the Arabian Shield. Comparison of the ophiolitic dates with the ages of the adjacent crustal blocks provides a more complete basis for plate-tectonics reconstruction of the shield than has previously been possible. Our new zircon ages confirm earlier Sm-Nd mineral isochrons for ophiolites of the northwestern Arabian Shield, show that the ophiolites are among the oldest oceanic rocks in each terrane, support near- or within-arc tectonic settings for the ophiolites, suggest that the Bir Umq suture extends north along the Nabitah mobile belt into the northern shield, and suggest that older (>1250 Ma) continental crustal material is locally present in the dominantly “oceanic” western shield. We suggest that Indonesia and Alaska provide Phanerozoic analogues for stages in the accretion history.

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