The interior rifts of the Yemen - analysis of basin structure and stratigraphy in a regional plate tectonic context
The full extent of Mesozoic rift basins within interior Yemen has only recently been established. This work presents a detailed documentation of the stratigraphy, structure and basin development of the Marib-Shabwa and Sirr-Sayun basins, and the Jeza Trough. Yemen is located at the south-western margin of the Arabian Plate, which for most of its early geological history formed part of the northern passive margin of Gondwanaland. Mesozoic break up of the super-continent was associated with major rifting in the Late Jurassic (main phase) and Early Cretaceous. Orientation of the rift basins reflects an inheritance from deep-seated Precambrian structural trends which cross the Arabian Plate. The resultant structure of basement highs, tilted fault blocks, marginal terraces and central graben highs is illustrated in a series of detailed cross-sections. A comprehensive stratigraphic framework has also been established for the Jurassic and Cretaceous basin-fill, enabling thickness and facies variations to be analysed. This reveals a clear shift in the main period of fault-related, high sediment accumulation rates, both within and across the three interior basins of Yemen. In the western Marib-Shabwa Basin, the fill is dominantly Late Jurassic, whilst the eastern Shabwa Basin and Sirr-Sayun Basin exhibit a progressively increased, and younger, Early Cretaceous fill. The main period of fault-related sedimentation in the most easterly basin, the Jeza Trough, is wholly Cretaceous. Plate tectonic reconstructions of the area for this period have documented the separation and subsequent north-eastward movement of the Indian Plate, awal- from Africa-Arabia. We believe this may have been the causal mechanism in the progressive eastward migration of rift activity in the Yemen.