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ABSTRACT Calcarenitic bodies punctuate the shallow-water deposits of Plio-Pleistocene Mediterranean basins. Their rhythmic stacking pattern and stratigraphic distribution suggest a close relationship with deep-water sapropel cycles, whose development is controlled by periodic changes in the Earth's orbital parameters. Calcarenitic bodies occur as eccentricity-controlled clusters (over periods of 100–400 kyr) showing a time-correlation with sapropel clusters, starting from 3.1 Ma. Formation of individual calcarenites is possibly driven by obliquity and/or precession cyclicity. This has important implications both for an improved understanding of Mediterranean palaeoceanographic events and correlation of shallow- and deep-water successions. The appearance of sapropel and calcarenitic clusters starting from 3.1 Ma suggests a direct link with the onset of Northern Hemisphere glaciation, which could be responsible for the amplification of oceanographic events within the Mediterranean.