Chromatographic metasomatism of the Arabian - Nubian lithosphere

Mordechai Stein*, Oded Navon, Ronit Kessel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Trace elements and isotopic ratios of calc-alkaline and tholeiitic dikes from the very last stage of the late Proterozoic, Pan-African orogeny in the northern Arabian-Nubian Shield (ANS), and alkali basalts from the overlying Phanerozoic section are used to constrain the composition and model the evolution of the lithospheric mantle in this region. The dikes and basalts are interpreted as lithospheric melts formed during the post-orogenic (and post-subduction) history of the shield. While the mafic member of all suites share a primitive La/Th ratio, the Nb/Th and Ce/Pb are distinct for each suite. The (Nb/Th)PM (primitive mantle normalized) is ∼ 0.2 in the calc-alkaline dikes and 1.4 in the tholeiitic dikes and the Phanerozoic alkali basalts. The (Ce/Pb)PM ratios are low in the dikes (0.4 in the calc-alkaline and 0.3 in the tholeiitic) and high in the Phanerozoic basalts (2.8). We suggest that the variations in the trace element ratios reflect sampling of different zones in the lithospheric mantle, which were formed by subduction related metasomatism of the mantle wedge. We constructed a chromatographic model to explain this zonation. In this model a plume-derived oceanic lithosphere is subducted and dehydrates at depth. Fluids released from the dehydrating slab metasomatize the overlying wedge and form amphibole-rich channels. Nb is preferentially taken by the amphibole and is enriched only in the lower zones of the column. The other elements (U, Th, REE and especially Pb and Rb) behave incompatibly. They are enriched in the fluid and transported efficiently to the melting zone in the centre of the wedge. Dehydration of the base of the wedge as it descends below the amphibole stability field depletes this region in Pb and Rb. After the end of subduction, the wedge is fossilized and forms the lithospheric mantle. The zone above the Nb concentration front is sampled by the calc-alkaline magmas. The tholeiitic magmas sample the zone below the Nb front. The Phanerozoic alkali basalts sample the dehydrated base where Nb is high and Pb and Rb low. Trace element patterns in amphibole xenoliths from Mount Carmel, Israel, are similar to the model's prediction for amphibole in the residual base of the lithosphere. The model correctly reproduces the major features in the isotopic evolution of the Arabian-Nubian lithosphere, and has implications for the formation of HIMU-type magmas in mid-plate environments.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)75-91
Number of pages17
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Nov 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Amitai Katz and Gerhard Woerner for their help in the laboratory. Yishai Weinstein carried out part of the XRF and ICP–MS analyses. He also shared with us his data and ideas on the development of the ANS. James Brenan and Andy Saunders are thanked for their thorough reviews. Support by the Earth Sciences Research Administration, Ministry of Energy and the Austrian Friends of the Hebrew University are gratefully acknowledged. [CL]


  • Arabian Shield
  • Isotope ratios
  • Lithosphere
  • Metasomatism
  • Models
  • Nubian Shield


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