The lower crust of the Northern broken edge of Gondwana: Evidence for sediment subduction and syn-Variscan anorogenic imprint from zircon U-Pb-Hf in granulite xenoliths

Avishai Abbo*, Dov Avigad, Axel Gerdes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The continental basement in the Eastern Mediterranean area represents the northern edge of Gondwana, which has been the site of repeated crustal accretion and has subsequently been modified by consecutive rifting events. We investigated the geologic and thermal history of the North Gondwana lower crust by examining the U-Pb-Hf isotope systematics in zircons within 6 mafic granulite xenoliths from Pliocene lava cone in North Israel. The lava cone protrudes through the platform cover that seals the late Neoproterozoic junction between the Arabian-Nubian basement to the South and the Cadomian basement exposed in the Taurides to the North. The mafic granulite xenoliths are composed of plagioclase + orthopyroxene + clinopyroxene ± garnet ± spinel ± secondary amphibole. U-Pb zircon ages from the granulites vary among the different samples with distinct zircon age populations at 400–1200 Ma, 170–350 Ma, and 3.6–4.2 Ma, attesting the lower crust preserves a prolonged thermal and igneous history. While 400–550 Ma U-Pb ages are interpreted to be the result of Pb loss, the wide scatter of zircon grains aged between 550 and 1200 Ma, alongside their diverse εHf(t) values (−25–+10), is an extraordinary evidence for the accretion of Neoproterozoic sediments into the North Gondwana arc root lower crust. The U-Pb-Hf signature of these zircons resembles Cadomian sediments of the Tauride block to the north, indicating southward (present coordinates) subduction under North Gondwana and possible accretion of fore-arc sediments to the lower crust through relamination in the latest Neoproterozoic. One xenolith contained metamorphic-shaped zircons aged 170–350 Ma with positive εHf values and Hf-TDM of 0.85 Ga interpreted to reflect Paleozoic recycling of the Neoproterozoic juvenile Arabian basement, which we consider to form a major component of the lower crust in the region. An overwhelming cluster of Carboniferous zircons concentrating at 305 Ma with exclusively negative εHf values around −6, was retrieved from three xenoliths. Some of these zircons portrayed igneous textures and shape. While Carboniferous igneous activity is the hallmark of Western Europe's Variscan orogeny, the latter did not affect the southern rifted edge of Neo-Tethys where our xenoliths were retrieved. The Paleozoic age-Hf composition in our xenoliths is therefore interpreted to result from syn-Variscan recycling of Neoproterozoic sedimentary remains in the lower crust, and some degree of melting in a non-orogenic environment. Rather than with horizontal plate motions and orogeny, the Carboniferous zircon ages in the xenoliths appear to coalesce with significant vertical movements that created continental scale unconformities and a broad basin and swell architecture known to develop over the entire North Gondwana margin at that time. The Carboniferous aged zircons in northern Israel lower crustal xenoliths are therefore a unique gauge of the thermal perturbation that accompanied the large-scale mantle dynamics below the then passive North African margin of Gondwana, while Variscan orogenic accretion occurred on the Eurasian margin. These lower crustal granulite xenoliths therefore contain important information with respect to the nature of the lower crust under Israel, with implications on the geodynamic setting during the Cadomian and Variscan cycles.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)84-96
Number of pages13
JournalGondwana Research
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 International Association for Gondwana Research


  • Carboniferous thermal event
  • Lower continental crust
  • Mafic granulite xenoliths
  • Sediment relamination
  • Zircon U-Pb-Hf


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