Origin of Lower Cretaceous (‘Nubian’) sandstones of North-east Africa and Arabia from detrital zircon U-Pb SHRIMP dating



Lower Cretaceous sandstones of the type exposed in Israel, deposited over much of North Africa and Arabia as widespread sandstone sheets, typically are mineralogically and texturally mature. Previous petrographic examinations suggested that the Lower Cretaceous sandstones are at least partly a product of recycling and the present study supports this notion. The results of U-Pb Sensitive High Resolution Ion Micro-Probe (SHRIMP) dating of detrital zircons from the Lower Cretaceous section exposed in Israel indicate that they are dominated by detrital zircons of Neoproterozoic age, mainly concentrated in the 0·55 to 0·65 Ga interval, with various amounts of older (pre-Neoproterozoic) zircons (of 0·95 to 1·10, 1·7 to 2·0 and 2·6 to 2·65 Ga age groups). The overall age signal is similar to detrital zircon age spectra previously obtained from the Cambrian–Ordovician sections of Israel and Jordan. Remarkably, the detrital zircon spectra remained almost unchanged for nearly 400 Myr. Thus, the most probable provenance of the Lower Cretaceous sandstone is the recycling of relatively proximal Palaeozoic sandstone. Since first unroofed from above pan-African terranes closer to the secession of orogeny, the ensuing siliciclastics were recycled repeatedly throughout the Phanerozoic with little additional basement denudation. The Lower Cretaceous sandstone comprises quartz sand that was first eroded from above pan-African orogens ca 400 Myr prior to deposition.