Carbonate aeolianites of western Saurashtra, India: experimental decipherment of the depositional mechanisms



Granular carbonate deposits of Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene age, commonly referred to as ‘miliolite limestone’, occur in a linear belt, parallel to the southern coast of Saurashtra, India. In the present study area these carbonate deposits are found in select valleys between ridges and mounds of pyroclastic material present in the Deccan trap plateau. Two different depositional histories have been proposed for these sediments. The presence of marine bioclasts led to the postulation of a marine origin for these deposits. The second school of thought propounded redeposition of the coastal sediments by aeolian processes. Although a few features could not be explained by the proposed aeolian model, critical comparison of these two views favoured the aeolian origin. The mode of occurrence, lithological and structural attributes, and microscopic evidence presented here, also support a possible aeolian origin for these deposits. Experimental observation indicates that these carbonate aeolianites represent backflow deposits, which accumulated because of the flow separation caused by the presence of topographic highs. The conspicuous concave-up geometry of the deposit conformed to the shape of the separation bulb. In view of the inferred depositional mechanism, the disposition of the deposits and the signature of the palaeoflow direction suggest that the carbonate particles were derived from the north-western coast of Saurashtra by strong south-easterly winds. Massive granular carbonates with outsized basement clasts appear to be the product of avalanching of granular material from the higher contours because of oversteepening of the primary deposit.