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Summary

The depositional settings for primary and early diagenetic evaporite deposits generally fall into three categories: marginal (mixed shallow-subaqueous and subaerial), shallow and deep subaqueous. These three environmental groupings hold for both marine and nonmarine settings, although the details of continental evaporites may be far more complex than in most marine-fed water bodies. The primary evaporite morphologies from many continental (playa), hypersaline marine and marine-marginal depositional settings are reasonably well understood, because of the numerous detailed studies of recent, Holocene and Cenozoic deposits that serve as models for sedimentary interpretation. The sedimentological features that develop in deeper water settings are inferred, based on examination of unaltered Cenozoic deposits. Each environmental setting develops characteristic depositional features and patterns, and one facies grades into the next. Because there may be significant physiochemical changes in water composition during deposition as well as sudden change(s) in both water depth and basinal circulation, description and interpretation of evaporative rocks should not be based on mineralogy alone, but on the distinct sedimentary characteristics of each part of a deposit. In cases where sediments still reflect their primary mineralogy and morphology, most of the environments can now be recognized; however, geochemical studies are commonly required to determine the source(s) of the original water. The determinative geochemical techniques that presently serve as a support to sedimentologic study include studies of fluid inclusions, bromine content of chloride salts, and the stable isotopes of strontium, sulphur, carbon and oxygen. Only after these and perhaps other chemical analyses are considered can the full depositional history of a region be reasonably unravelled.