The origin and diagenesis of cherts from Cyprus



    1. Department of Geology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge
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      Department of Geology, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh. U.K.


The Troodos Massif of Cyprus is overlain by a variety of cherts in pelagic chalks, volcanogenic sediments, radiolarites and radiolarian mudstones, all of Campanian to Upper Eocene age.

There are two chert types, granular chert and vitreous chert. X-ray diffraction (XRD) reveals the silica polymorphs, disordered cristobalite and quartz.

Silicification of the chalks varies from incipient, to bedded, granular cherts, all with disordered cristobalite as the main silica phase. Quartzitic cherts are restricted to the base of Upper Palaeocene and Lower Eocene calciturbidite beds. Disordered cristobalite predominates in the radiolarian mudstones at the foot of the sequence.

The form of disordered cristobalite in cavities ranges from microspherules of radiating bladed crystals, the ‘lepispheres’ of the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) to bladed overgrowths, and fibrous silica. In contrast, within the fine grained matrix, the disordered cristobalite takes the form of partly coalescent crude microgranules and microspherules.

Most of the chalcedonic quartz in Cyprus is derived by recrystallization of previously inorganically precipitated disordered cristobalite rather than by direct precipitation.

According to the concept of impurity-controlled maturation the composition of host sediment controls the incorporation of exchangeable cations and other impurities into inorganically precipitated disordered cristobalite. With time (up to 100 million years) internal solid state reorganization of the disordered cristobalite is accompanied by gradual expulsion of impurities, until the cristobalite dissolves followed by quartz precipitation. Complete conversion to quartz takes place first in porous calcareous sediments free of impurities, as in the Cyprus calciturbidites; in fine grained clay-rich sediments, like Cyprus radiolarian mudstones, disordered cristobalite persists much longer. Impurity-controlled maturation also helps explain the diagenesis of Cyprus chert nodules.