The Bitlis-Pütürge collision zone of SE Turkey is the area of maximum indentation along the >2400-km-long Assyrian-Zagros suture between ­Arabia and Eurasia. The integration of (i) fission-track analyses on apatites, (ii) (U-Th)/He analyses on zircons, (iii) field observations on stratigraphic and structural relationships, and (iv) preexisting U-Pb and Ar-Ar age determinations on zircons, amphiboles, and micas provides for the first time an overall picture of the thermo­chronometric evolution of this collisional orogen. The data set points to ubiquitous latest Cretaceous metamorphism of a passive margin sedimentary sequence and its igneous basement not only along the suture zone but across the entire width of the Anatolia-Tauride block north of the suture. During the early Paleogene the basement complex of the Bitlis and Pütürge massifs along the suture was rapidly exhumed due to extensional tectonics in a back-arc setting and eventually overlain by Eocene shallow-marine sediments. The entire Oligocene is characterized by a rather flat thermochronometric evolution in the Bitlis orogenic wedge, contrary to the widely held belief that this epoch marked the inception of the Arabia-Eurasia collision and was characterized by widespread deformation. Deposition of a thick Oligocene sedimentary succession in the Muş-Hınıs basin occurred in a retroarc foreland setting unrelated to continental collision. During the Middle Miocene, the Bitlis-Pütürge orogenic wedge underwent a significant and discrete phase of rapid growth by both frontal accretion, as shown by cooling/exhumation of the foreland deposits on both sides of the orogenic prism, and underplating, as shown by cooling/exhumation of the central metamorphic core of the orogenic wedge. We conclude that continental collision started in the mid-Miocene, as also shown by coeval thick syntectonic clastic wedges deposited in flexural basins along the Arabian plate northern margin and contractional reactivation of a number of preexisting structures in the European foreland.

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