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Image: Late-Precambrian volcanic rocks and dragon blood trees, Socotra Island, Yemen. Photo: M. J. Whitehouse

Crustal growth in the Arabian-Nubian Shield

The Arabian-Nubian Shield, which stretches from north-eastern Africa across the Arabian peninsula, represents one of the most significant volumes of Neoproterozoic crustal growth on Earth and, as such, is a key region for understanding tectonic and magmatic processes in the late Precambrian as well as the likely distribution of continents prior to the assembly of Gondwana during the so-called Pan African orogeny.

Forskningsområden: Geovetenskap

Forskningsämnen: Geokronologi

Project overview

Project period: 2022 2024

Participating departments from the museum: Department of Geosciences, GEO

This project focusses on providing new geochronological constraints on magmatism across the shield as well as investigating the role of earlier micro-continental fragments in the assembly of the Arabian shield.

Background and purpose

Several key questions remain about the nature of the Precambrian basement that underlies the eastern part of the Arabian Shield in eastern Yemen, Saudi Arabia and southwestern Oman, which is also represented in Somaliland.

  1. Are there further vestiges of older (pre-Neoproterozic) continental crust, perhaps the “Eastern Arabian craton” hidden beneath the Phanerozoic cover rocks and desert sands?
  2. Is the eastward-younging arc accretion trend seen in Saudi Arabia and Yemen mirrored by westward younging arcs on the eastern margin, for which there is tentative evidence from exposures in Oman?
  3. To what extent might the hidden terranes contribute to the detrital zircon budget of the overlying sedimentary cover? This contains a variety of components that are not represented in the local exposed geology and are generally assumed to be far-travelled.

In order to address these questions, the research is collecting and characterizing basement samples that potentially fill the exposure gap between the Precambrian outcrops in Yemen and Saudi Arabia and the outcrops in Oman (/Socotra). The principal targets of the current field sampling campaign are the basement uplifts in Somaliland and Yemen.

Selected publications

  • Whitehouse, M.J., Pease, V. and Al-Khirbash, S., 2016. Neoproterozoic crustal growth at the margin of the East Gondwana continent–age and isotopic constraints from the easternmost inliers of Oman. International Geology Review, 58(16), pp.2046-2064. https://doi.org/10.1080/00206814.2016.1207207
  • Al-Khirbash, S., Heikal, M.T.S., Whitehouse, M.J., Windley, B.F. and Al Selwi, K., 2021. Evolution and mineralization of the Precambrian basement of Yemen. The Geology of the Arabian-Nubian Shield, pp.633-657. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-72995-0_24
  • Rantakokko, N.E., Whitehouse, M.J., Pease, V. and Windley, B.F., 2014. Neoproterozoic evolution of the eastern Arabian basement based on a refined geochronology of the Marbat region, Sultanate of Oman. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 392(1), pp.107-127. https://doi.org/10.1144/SP392.6
  • Pease, V., Yeshanew, F.G. and Whitehouse, M.J., 2022. Deciphering crustal growth in the southernmost Arabian Shield through zircon U-Pb geochronology, whole rock chemistry and Nd isotopes. International Geology Review, 64(16), pp.2359-2377. https://doi.org/10.1080/00206814.2021.1983735 Länk till annan webbplats, öppnas i nytt fönster.


Swedish Research Council Länk till annan webbplats.

Carl Tryggers Foundation Länk till annan webbplats.

Project Participants

External participants

  1. Salah Al-Khirbash, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman. Email: khirbash@squ.edu.om
  2. Mohammed Ali, Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi. Email: mohammed.ali@ku.ac.ae
  3. Victoria Pease, Stockholm University. Email: vicky.pease@geo.su.se

Project manager

Martin Whitehouse



Epost-ikon martin.whitehouse@nrm.se

Project members

Heejin Jeon



Epost-ikon heejin.jeon@nrm.se

Forskningsområden: Geovetenskap

Forskningsämnen: Geokronologi

Innehållsansvarig: Lisa Sundström