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The complex rifting and subsidence history of the Sirte basin serves as an instructive case study of the tectonic evolution of an intercratonic extensional basin. The Sirte basin formed by collapse of the Sirte arch in the mid-Cretaceous. Marine sediments accumulated following initial crustal arching and rifting as the basin was flooded from the north. Upper Cretaceous strata lie unconformably on igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Precambrian basement complex, Cambrian-Ordovician Gargaf Group, or the pre-Cretaceous continental Nubian Sandstone. The most rapid subsidence and accumulation of basinal strata occurred in the early Cenozoic; however, the basin has been relatively stable since the Oligocene. The basin is floored by a northwest-southeast-trending mosaic of narr w horsts and grabens, an important structural characteristic that distinguishes it from the adjacent intracratonic Kufra, Murzuk, and Ghadames basins.
The details of basin subsidence, sediment accumulation rates, and facies variations have been reconstructed for the northern Sirte basin from a suite of approximately 100 well logs and numerous seismic lines. Subsidence-rate maps for short time intervals from the mid-Cretaceous through the Eocene show a continual shifting of the loci of maximum and minimum subsidence. The nonsteady character of basin subsidence may reflect a periodicity of movement on the major basement-rooted growth faults bounding the underlying horsts and grabens.
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