International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 108, Issue 6, pp 2097–2111 | Cite as

Late Cretaceous exhumation and uplift of the Harz Mountains, Germany: a multi-method thermochronological approach

  • Hilmar von EynattenEmail author
  • István Dunkl
  • Manfred Brix
  • Veit-Enno Hoffmann
  • Matthias Raab
  • Stuart Nigel Thomson
  • Barry Kohn
Original Paper


The Harz Mountains represent one of the most prominent surface expressions of Late Cretaceous intraplate shortening in Central Europe. We present a comprehensive low-temperature thermochronological data set (zircon and apatite, fission track and [U–Th]/He) covering the exhumed Paleozoic basement of the Harz Mountains and the adjacent Kyffhäuser block, as well as Lower Triassic sedimentary rocks of the western and southern rim of the Harz Mountains. Integration of results with sedimentological data from the syntectonic Late Cretaceous Subhercynian Basin allows for a detailed reconstruction of the timing of uplift and erosion of the Harz Mountains. The data reveal that (i) tectonic reorganization and initial exhumation started at around 90 Ma, (ii) uplift and emergence caused erosion of the Mesozoic sedimentary cover between 86–85 Ma and 83–82 Ma, and (iii) erosion of at least 3–4 km of underlying Paleozoic rocks followed and continued into the Paleogene. The thickness of removed overburden amounts to at least 6 km, and most erosion occurred in Santonian to Campanian time at minimum rates of ~ 0.5 km/Myr. The southwestern rim of the Harz has exhumed slower over a longer period of time, and may record a phase of Late Cretaceous, syntectonic sediment accumulation.


Thermochronology Fission track (U–Th)/He Late Cretaceous Intraplate stress Subhercynian Cretaceous Basin Central Europe 



We thank Björn Baresel, Eike-Matthias Bultmann, Katrina Kremer, Florian Wetzel and Jörn-Frederic Wotzlaw for supporting the (U–Th)/He analysis at University of Göttingen, Frank Hansen for mineral separation at Ruhr University Bochum, and Jonas Kley and Thomas Voigt for valuable discussions. Thorough reviews by Martin Danišík and an anonymous reviewer helped to improve the final manuscript.

Supplementary material

531_2019_1751_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (90 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 89 kb)


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Copyright information

© Geologische Vereinigung e.V. (GV) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilmar von Eynatten
    • 1
    Email author
  • István Dunkl
    • 1
  • Manfred Brix
    • 2
  • Veit-Enno Hoffmann
    • 1
  • Matthias Raab
    • 3
  • Stuart Nigel Thomson
    • 4
  • Barry Kohn
    • 3
  1. 1.Geoscience Center, Department of Sedimentology and Environmental GeologyUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Geology, Mineralogy, and Geophysics, Faculty of GeosciencesRuhr University BochumBochumGermany
  3. 3.School of Earth SciencesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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