Age and structure of the Levant basin, Eastern Mediterranean

Amit Segev, Eytan Sass, Uri Schattner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Large parts of the Mediterranean were formed during the Mesotethys Ocean opening and subsequently became land-locked in the midst of the Africa-Eurasia plate convergence. Since the Neogene, this convergence has concealed key sections of the original basins. Previous studies widely agree that the easternmost part of the Mediterranean, the Levant Basin, opened during the Permian to Early Jurassic (PJ) and accordingly explain the architecture of the basin and its margins. However, since the PJ model was suggested in the late 1990’s a flood of new evidence has arrived since the hydrocarbon exploration, some of which do not fit in with the PJ model, and some remain unexplained. The current research re-examines the old and new evidence from the Levant basin, its margins, the surrounding landmass, the adjacent Eratosthenes Seamount and the eastern part of the Herodotus Basin. The integration of geological and geophysical data suggests that the Levant Basin formed ~100 Myr later than previously thought, i.e., during the Cretaceous. Its opening was triggered by the ‘Levant-Nubia’ mantle plume that induced a sequence of wide-spread Ocean Island Basalt volcanism. The resulting crustal updoming and stretching led to the breakup of the Levant landmass since ~141 Ma, and drifting of the Eratosthenes Seamount since ~125 Ma. Back-arc extension shaped the Levant Basin as a hybrid crust comprising continental slivers intervened by oceanic patches. The basin opened during the Long Normal Cretaceous Polarity Chrons between ~122 and ~84 Ma, and therefore it does not show any magnetic lineation. The opening of the Levant basin occurred while the Herodotus basin floor subducted eastward under the Eratosthenes Seamount. The subduction hinge did a roll-back and facilitated the Seamount drifting. The Seamount absorbed intensive volcanism while chasing the subduction roll-back and sliding between two Subduction-Transform Edge Propagator (STEP) faults that bounded the stretching Levant back-arc basin. The Turonian-Maastrichtian compression stress regime, or inversion, halted the extension of the Levant Basin, stagnated its hybrid fabric, and prevented the development of a spreading center. The evolutionary scenario suggested here is a game changer for future exploration in the Levant and may serve as a global analog for the formation of marginal seas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-250
Number of pages18
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Gondwana breakup
  • Gravity
  • Herodotus basin
  • Levant Basin
  • Magnetic
  • Mantle plume
  • Marginal sea
  • Mesotethys Ocean

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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