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Rubidium-strontium studies of Precambrian volcanic and plutonic rocks of the Arabian Shield document an early development of the Arabian craton between 900 and 680 m.y. (million years) ago. Geologic studies indicate an island-arc environment characterized by andesitic (dioritic) magmas, volcaniclastic sedimentation, rapid deposition, and contemporaneous deformation along north or northwest-trending axes. Magmatic trends show consistent variation in both composition and geographic location as a function of age. The oldest units belong to an assemblage of basaltic strata exposed in western Saudi Arabia that yield an age of 1165:!:110 m.y. The oldest andesitic strata studied yield an age of 912:!:76 m.y. The earliest plutonic units are diorite to trondhjemite batholiths that range from 800 to 9,00 m.y. in age and ,occur along the western and southern parts of Saudi Arabia. Younger plutonic units, 680 to 750 m.y. in age, range from quartz diorite to granodiodte and become more abundant in the central and northeastern parts of the Arabian Shield. Initial 'Sr/ 86 Sr ratios for both dioritic groups range from 0.7023 to 0.7030 and average 0.7027. The absence of sialic detritus in sedimentary units and the evidence for an island-arc environment suggest the early development of the Arabian craton at a convergent plate margin between plates of oceanic lithosphere. Active subduction apparently extended from at least 900 m.y. to about 680 m.y.
Subsequent to this subduction-related magmatism and tectonism, called the Hijaz tectonic cycle, the Arabian craton was sutured to the late Precambrian African plate in a collisional event. This period of orogeny, represented in Arabia and eastern Africa by the Mozambiquian or Pan-African event, extended from some time before 650 m.y. to at least 540 m.y. and perhaps 520 m.y. B.P. Although the tectonic processes of subduction and continental collision during the 900+ to 500-m.y. period require similar directions of plate convergence, the differences in magmatic and tectonic. styles of Hijaz orogenesis from those of the Pan-African and the temporal break between them in much of the southern part of the Arabian Shield support division into at least two events. As defined by the ages of major plutonic units, the axis of magmatic and tectonic activity migrated eastward or northeastward during the Hijaz cycle, the predominantly dioritic plutonic rocks becoming younger and more siliceous to the east. Granodiorite to granite pl}.1tonism of the Pan-African event, however, shows no geographic bias, being distributed throughout the Arabian Shield. Although the Hijaz diorites and Pan-African granitic rocks exhibit strong contrasts in composition and age differences as great as 250 m.y. in the westernmost parts of the area, the two groups are less distinct compositionally and nearly the same age in the eastern part.
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Rubidium-strontium geochronology and plate-tectonic evolution of the southern part of the Arabian Shield
U.S. Geological Survey ;
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