• Argille scagliose;
  • chaotic bodies;
  • diatremes;
  • mass-wasting deposits;
  • Mediterranean;
  • mélanges;
  • mud diapirs;
  • mud volcanoes;
  • olistostromes


Tectonic and sedimentary mélanges, rocks with block-in-matrix fabric often referred to as ‘chaotic’, are widespread in the circum-Mediterranean collisional orogenic belts as well as in submerged Mediterranean Arcs. These rock types have been defined originally as ‘Argille scagliose’ (Bianconi, 1840) and ‘olistostromes’ (Flores, 1955, 1959) in the outcrops of the Apennine chain (Italy). Both terminology and concepts have undergone a rather complex evolution through time owing to the gradual recognition of similar chaotic bodies in all the circum-Mediterranean orogenic belts. Submarine mud volcanoes of the Mediterranean region, also composed by block-in-matrix, more commonly referred to as mud breccias, have a much younger history. These mud breccias were discovered in 1981 and, since then, a growing number of sea-going geophysical and geological expeditions have allowed the recognition of a major mud volcano belt in the Eastern Mediterranean and of a number of mud diapirs and mud volcano fields from the Black Sea to the Gulf of Cadiz. Structural, textural and genetic similarities between the mud breccias of the Mediterranean mud volcanoes and the olistostromes and Argille scagliose of the Apennines were noted from the very beginning, but the matter has not been the focus of any detailed study. In this paper, the use of the terms in the geological literature is analysed, the distribution of these rock units in the Mediterranean region explored and the assumed genetic processes are identified in order to formulate a common genetic model that can be applied to the evolution of the circum-Mediterranean sedimentary basins.