Palaeosols of the Lower Jurassic Mishhor and Ardon Formations (‘Laterite Derivative Facies’), Makhtesh Ramon, Israel



The Lower Jurassic sequence exposed at Makhtesh Ramon, in the south-western Negev of Israel, comprises cyclic fluviatile sediments derived almost exclusively from the reworking of an older laterite terrain. A succession of palaeosols, having the characteristics of modern, red-brown earths, has developed during periods of sub-aerial exposure upon the fine grained overbank sediments. A marked seasonal palaeoclimate with accompanying poor sub-surface drainage conditions, and some stagnation of ground water, is reflected by the distribution and mottling patterns of the iron minerals (with varying degrees of hydration), precipitation of illuviated carbonate and sulphate minerals and the development of soil microrelief.

A complex history of pedogenesis and ground water alteration is shown by the rapid lateral facies change within this sequence, into one dominated by high-alumina flint clay and bauxite. Relict pedogenetic and sedimentological textural features of the combined palaeosol/fluviatile sequence, have been identified and mapped within the flint clay/bauxite lithologies. These features include irregular voids, produced by solution of pedogenic sulphate nodules, slickensided curviplanar surfaces of soil microrelief, and depositional bedding. The field relationships of these relicts indicate the overprinting of a younger, chemical weathering event giving rise to the high-alumina flint clay and bauxites.

The geometric shape of the upper bounding surface of the ‘bauxite’ alteration zone, is irregular and has an ‘intrusive’ character with respect to the younger, overlying, unaltered sediments. This, together with abrupt changes in mottling patterns near the contact zone and subtle changes in mineralogy from a bauxitic assemblage at depth to one containing mixed-layer clay minerals and carbonates nearer the contact, leads to the conclusion that the later stages of chemical weathering occurred within a confined system, where ground water movements were induced by intake of underlying aquifers.