Magnetostratigraphy is widely used as a tool for stratigraphical correlation but there are problems in its application to rocks which have suffered complex diagenesis, particularly sandy, continental red beds. In such cases the complete magnetic record should be studied in relation to its depositional, diagenetic and structural history. To this end a detailed palaeomagnetic study has been made of Permian and Triassic rocks in the northern Iberian Cordillera, Spain. Four stratigraphical units comprising the Autunian, 'Saxonian', Buntsandstein and Muschelkalk have been studied in a single section near Molina de Aragon which is well-documented sedimentologically. Autunian rocks have a characteristic remanence which is exclusively reversed and corresponds to the Kiaman Interval of Lower Permian age. A pole position (49 N, 167 W) is consistent with previous studies which indicate the rotation of Iberia in post-Triassic times relative to the stable European plate. The Saxonian facies show complex, multicomponent magnetizations; no polarity zonation can be resolved but individual components were acquired prior to the rotation of Iberia.
The Buntsandstein is remarkable in that much of it is completely remagnetized in a direction similar to the present local geomagnetic direction. This secondary remanence is carried by fine grained hematite which has been formed as a result of carbonate dissolution and other diagenetic reactions. Initially, these iron oxides were probably superparamagnetic and remanence was only blocked-in by structural inversion of the Iberian Cordillera in Tertiary times and after rotation of the Iberian plate. Some of the primary remanence is preserved in some fine grained lithologies of the Buntsandstein, indicating that normal and reversed zones of magnetization were originally present. The magnetization of the Muschelkalk carbonates is also complex; secondary components similar to those of the Buntsandstein are present but there is evidence that primary components were mainly normal during Karnian times.