Geologische Rundschau

, Volume 85, Issue 4, pp 832–851 | Cite as

The transition from passive to active margin tectonics: a case study from the zone of Samedan (eastern Switzerland)

  • M. R. Handy
Original Paper


The Zone of Samedan is part of a fossil, early Mesozoic rift system originally situated in the distal, Lower Austro-Alpine domain of the Adriatic passive continental margin. An early Mesozoic configuration of asymmetrical rift basins bounded by relative structural highs compartmentalized Late Cretaceous active margin tectonics; Jurassic half-grabens were folded into arcuate synclines, whereas relative structural highs engendered thin, imbricated thrust sheets. West-directed thrusting and folding initiated at the surface and continued to depths favoring mylonitization under lower greenschist-facies conditions. At this time Liguria-Piemontese ophiolites were accreted to Lower Austro-Alpine units directly underlying the Zone of Samedan. Late Cretaceous orogenic collapse of the Adriatic active margin involved the reactivation of west-directed thrusts as low-angle, top-to-the-east, normal faults. These faults accommodated extensional uplift of Liguria-Piemontese ophiolites and Lower Austro-Alpine units beneath and within the Zone of Samedan. During Paleogene collision, some Late Cretaceous faults in the Zone of Samedan were reactivated under lower anchizonal conditions as north-directed thrusts. The latter stages of this early Tertiary thickening were transitional to brittle, high-angle normal faulting associated with top-to-the-east extension and spreading above the warm, uplifting Lepontine dome.

Key words

Rifting Basin inversion Active margin Passive margin Austro-Alpine Alpine tectonics Tethys 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. R. Handy
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für GeowissenschaftenJustus-Liebig-UniversitätGiessenGermany

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