Patch or pinnacle reefs of Cretaceous age exposed on western margin of Dead Sea (Israel)



For a petroleum geologist knowledge of the density of the distribution of subsurface Cretaceous reefs is a matter of practical interest. Hence, the discovery in the Judean Desert of Israel, near the western margin of the Dead Sea, of an exhumed sea bottom below an erosional unconformity is of particular interest, because it reveals the original distribution of such reefs, and thus may provide a clue to their subsurface distribution. In this desert, newly described Turonian (Upper Cretaceous) reefs are the dominant geomorphic features, as in their original habitat on the Cretaceous sea bottom. These reefs can be traced on aerial photographs: they are generally 5-15 m in diameter and 1-2.5 m in vertical dimension. Generally, reefs occur within 100-200 m of one another; in many places they are less than 50 m apart. The shapes of the patch or pinnacle reefs are almost circular, as are those occurring in the Edwards Limestone (Comanchean, Lower Cretaceous) in central Texas (Roberson, 1972).

The hard, resistant, ring-like outer rims of these exposed reefs weather out as raised rims. A central depression within such structures consists, in places, of Senonian soft chalky or friable material that has been interpreted as a diagenetic product of the vadose zone. The massive reef core consists of porous dolomite. The flanking strata which dip away from the reef core at angles of approximately 15-25° are composed of a probable original grainstone which has been diagenetically changed to a micritic fabric.