Skip to main content

The effect of early Priabonian sea-level change on the depositional architecture of the lower Qasr El-Sagha Formation, Kom Aushim, NE Fayum, Egypt

Abstract

The vertebrate fossil-bearing upper Eocene strata in the Fayum area, Egypt exhibit complex lateral facies variations making their stratigraphy and depositional setting a matter of debate. They are exceptionally well exposed in the Kom Aushim Quarry region, NE Fayum, where they have hitherto been rarely studied. A recent study in a nearby locality had imposed a tide-dominated delta for these strata. The present study provides insight into this sedimentary succession and introduces an updated sedimentological interpretation of the Umm Rigl Member; basal Qasr El-Sagha Formation relying on outcrop facies analysis and sequence stratigraphic data. Eight short stratigraphic sections were measured and fully described in terms of lithology, grain size, stratal boundaries and sedimentary structures. The mud-dominated lower unit of the Umm Rigl Member consists of four vertically stacked shallowing/coarsening upward bay-margin/lagoonal deltas. The strata in the upper unit of the Umm Rigl Member are interpreted as incised valley back infilled with fluvial, upper estuary, tidal flat passing upwards into shallow and open marine deposits. The strata represent two incomplete depositional sequences, separated by a sequence boundary defined by an abrupt basin-ward shift of facies and equates with the base of incised valley previously recognized in Wadi Al-Hitan area. This boundary may equate with the early Priabonian Pr-2 global sea-level fall. Based on transgressive stacking of facies, the strata of the upper unit are interpreted as estuarine rather than deltaic system. This updated interpretation enhances understanding of depositional history and the paleogeographic evolution of NE Fayum during the late Eocene.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9

Code availability

Not applicable.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets used in the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

References

  1. Abdel-Fattah ZA (2016) Facies transition and depositional architecture of the Late Eocene tide dominated delta in northern coast of Birket Qarun, Fayum, Egypt. J Afr Earth Sci 119:185–203

    Google Scholar 

  2. Abdel-Fattah ZA, Gingras MK, Caldwell MW, Pemberton SG (2010) Sedimentary environments and depositional characteristics of the middle to upper Eocene whale-bearing succession in the Fayum Depression, Egypt. Sedimentology 57:446–476

    Google Scholar 

  3. Abdel-Fattah ZA, Gingras MK, Pemberton SG (2011) Significance of hypoburrow nodule formation associated with large biogenic sedimentary structures in open-marine bay siliciclastics of the upper Eocene Birket Qarun Formation, Wadi Al-Hitan, Fayum, Egypt. Sediment Geol 233:111–128

    Google Scholar 

  4. Ainsworth RB, Vakarelov BV, Nanson RA (2011) Dynamic spatial and temporal prediction of changes in depositional processes on clastic shorelines: toward improved subsurface uncertainty reduction and management. AAPG Bull 95:267–297

    Google Scholar 

  5. Allen GP (1991) Sedimentary processes and facies in the Gironde Estuary: a recent model for macrotidal estuarine systems. Can Soc Petrol Geol 16:29–40

    Google Scholar 

  6. Amorosi A, Colalongo ML (2005) The linkage between alluvial and coeval marginal marine successions: evidence from the Late Quaternary record of the Po River Plain, Italy. In: Blum M, Marriott S (eds) Fluvial sedimentology VII. Special Publications of the International Association of Sedimentologists, vol 35, pp 257–275

  7. Ashworth PJ, Best JL, Roden JE, Bristow CS, Klaassen GJ (2000) Morphological evolution and dynamics of a large, sand braid-bar, Jamuna River, Bangladesh. Sedimentology 47:533–555

    Google Scholar 

  8. Beadnell HJL (1905) The topography and geology of the Fayum Province of Egypt. Geological Survey of Egypt

  9. Best JL, Ashworth PJ, Bristow CS, Roden J (2003) Three-dimensional sedimentary architecture of a large, mid-channel sand braid bar, Jamuna River, Bangladesh. J Sediment Res 73:516–530

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bhattacharya JP (2006) Deltas. In: Walker RG, Posamentier H (eds) Facies models revisited. SEPM Special Publications, vol 84, pp 237–292

  11. Bhattacharya JP, MacEachern JA (2009) Hyperpycnal rivers and prodeltaic shelves in the Cretaceous seaway of North America. J Sediment Res 79:184–209

    Google Scholar 

  12. Björklund PP (2005) Stacked Fluvial and Tide dominated Estuarine Deposits in High Frequency (Fourth Order) Sequences of the Eocene Central Basin, Spitsbergen. Sedimentology 52:391–428. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-3091.2005.00703.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Boersma JR, Terwindt JHJ (1981) Neap-spring tide sequences of intertidal shoal deposits in a mesotidal estuary. Sedimentology 28:151–170

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bown TM, Kraus MJ (1988) Geology and paleoenvironment of the Oligocene Jebel Qatrani Formation and adjacent rocks, Fayum depression, Egypt. Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey. Professional Paper 1452

  15. Boyd R, Dalrymple RW, Zaitlin BA (1992) Classification of clastic coastal depositional environments. Sediment Geol 80:139–150

    Google Scholar 

  16. Brenner RL, Ludvigson GA, Witzke BJ, Zawistoski AN, Kvale EP (2000) Late Albian Kiowa-Skull Creek marine transgression, Dakota Formation, eastern margin of Western Interior Seaway. J Sediment Res 70:868–878

    Google Scholar 

  17. Buatois LA, Mángano MG, Carr TR (1999) Sedimentology and ichnology of Paleozoic estuarine and shoreface reservoirs, Morrow Sandstone, Lower Pennsylvanian of Southwest Kansas USA. Midcontinent Geoscience, pp 1–35

  18. Buatois LA, Mángano MG, Alissa A, Carr TR (2002) Sequence stratigraphic and sedimentologic significance of biogenic structures from a late Paleozoic reservoir, Morrow Sandstone, subsurface of Southwest Kansas, USA. Sediment Geol 152:99–132

    Google Scholar 

  19. Cattaneo A, Steel RJ (2003) Transgressive deposits: a review of their variability. Earth Sci Rev 62:187–228

    Google Scholar 

  20. Chaumillon E, Bertin X, Fortunato AB et al (2017) Storm-induced marine flooding: lessons from a multidisciplinary approach. Earth Sci Rev 165:151–184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2016.12.005

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Choi K (2010) Rhythmic climbing-ripple cross-lamination in inclined heterolithic stratification (IHS) of a macrotidal estuarine channel, Gomso Bay, West Coast of Korea. J Sediment Res 80:550–561. https://doi.org/10.2110/jsr.2010.054

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Dalrymple RW, Choi K (2007) Morphologic and facies trends through the fluvial–marine transition in tide-dominated depositional systems: a schematic framework for environmental and sequence-stratigraphic interpretation. Earth Sci Rev 81:135–174

    Google Scholar 

  23. Dalrymple RW, Le Gresley EM, Fader GB, Petrie BD (1992) The western Grand Banks of Newfoundland: transgressive Holocene sedimentation under the combined influence of waves and currents. Mar Geol 105:95–118

    Google Scholar 

  24. Dalrymple RW, Makino Y, Zaitlin BA (1991) Temporal and spatial patterns of rhythmite deposition on mud at sedimentation in the macrotidal Cobequid Bay-Salmon River estuary, Bay of Fundy, Canada. In: Smith DG, Reinson GE, Zaitlin A, Rahmani RA (eds) Clastic tidal sedimentation, vol 16. Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, Memoir, pp 137–160

  25. Dolson J, El Barkooky A, Wehr F et al (2002) The Eocene and Oligocene paleoecology and paleogeography of Whale Valley and the Fayoum Basins: implications for hydrocarbon exploration in the Nile delta and eco-tourism in the Greater Fayoum Basin. Cairo 2002. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Tulsa, USA

  26. El-Fawal FM, El-Asmar HM, Sarhan M (2013) Depositional evolution of the middle–upper Eocene rocks, Fayum area, Egypt. Arab J Geosci 6:749–760

    Google Scholar 

  27. El Hawat AS (1997) Sedimentary basins of Egypt; an overview of dynamic stratigraphy. In: Selley RC (ed) African basins, sedimentary basins of the World. Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, pp 39–85

    Google Scholar 

  28. El Zarka MH (1983) Mode of hydrocarbon generation and prospects of the northern part of the Western Desert, Egypt. J Afr Earth Sci 14:294–318

    Google Scholar 

  29. Fielding CR (2010) Planform and facies variability in asymmetric deltas: facies analysis and depositional architecture of the Turonian Ferron Sandstone in the Western Henry Mountains, South-central Utah, U.S.A. J Sediment Res 80:455–479

    Google Scholar 

  30. Gingerich PD (1992) Marine mammals (Cetacea and Sirenia) from the Eocene of Gebel Mokattam and Fayum, Egypt: stratigraphy, age and paleoenvironments. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Papers on Paleontology 30

  31. Gingerich PD, Antar MSM, Zalmout IS (2012) Projection stratigraphy of the upper Eocene Gehannam, Birket Qarun, and Qasr El-Sagha formations and their fossil whales at the Wadi Al Hitan World Heritage Site, western Fayum Province (Egypt). Berichte der Geologischen Bundesansalt 85:82–97

    Google Scholar 

  32. Gingras MK, MacEachern JA, Dashtgard SD (2011) The potential of trace fossils as tidal indicators in bays and estuaries. Sediment Geol 279:97–106

    Google Scholar 

  33. Gingras MK, Rasanen ME, Pemberton SG, Romero LP (2002) Ichnology and sedimentology reveal depositional characteristics of bay-margin parasequences in the Miocene Amazonian foreland basin. J Sediment Res 72(6):871–883

    Google Scholar 

  34. Greb SF, Martino RL (2005) Fluvial–estuarine transitions in fluvial-dominated successions: examples from the Lower Pennsylvanian of the Central Appalachian Basin. Spec Publ Int Assess Sediment 35:425–451

    Google Scholar 

  35. Haq BU, Hardenbol J, Vail PR (1987) Chronology of fluctuating sea levels since the Triassic. Science 235:1156–1167

    Google Scholar 

  36. Hardenbol J, Jacques T, Martin FB, Pierre-Charles G, Vail PR (1998) Mesozoic and Cenozoic sequence chronostratigraphic framework of European basins. Soc Sediment Geol Spec Publ 60:3–13

    Google Scholar 

  37. Herbert CM, Alexander J, De Άlvaro MM (2015) Back-flow ripples in troughs downstream of unit bars Formation, preservation and value for interpreting flow conditions. Sedimentology 62:1814–1836

    Google Scholar 

  38. Iskander F (1943) Geological survey of the Gharaq El Sultani Sheet No. 68/54. (unpubl.) The Standard Oil Company of Egypt. S. A., Report No. 57

  39. Keeley ML, Massoud MS (1998) Tectonic controls on the petroleum geology of NE Africa. In: Macgregor DS, Moody RTJ, Clark-Lowes DD (eds) Petroleum Geology of North Africa. Geological Society of London, Special Publications, vol 132, pp 265–281

  40. King C, Underwood C, Steurbaut E (2014) Eocene stratigraphy of the Wadi Al-Hitan World Heritage Site and adjacent areas (Fayum, Egypt). Stratigraphy 11:185–234

    Google Scholar 

  41. Legler B, Johnson HD, Hampson GJ, Massart BYG, Jackson CA-L, Jackson MD, El-Barkooky A, Ravnas R (2013) Facies model of a fine-grained, tide-dominated delta: lower Dir Abu Lifa Member (Eocene), Western Desert, Egypt. Sedimentology 60:1313–1356

    Google Scholar 

  42. Li Y, Bhattacharya J (2014) Facies architecture of asymmetrical branching distributary channels: cretaceous Ferron Sandstone, Utah, USA. Sedimentology 61:1452–1483

    Google Scholar 

  43. Longhitano SG, Mellere D, Steel RG, Ainsworth RB (2012) Tidal depositional systems in the rock record: a review and new insights. Sediment Geol 279:2–22

    Google Scholar 

  44. MacEachern JA, Bann KL, Bhattacharya JP, Howell CD (2005) Ichnology of deltas: organism responses to the dynamic interplay of rivers, waves, storms and tides. In: Giosan L, Bhattacharya JP (eds) River deltas: concepts, models and examples. SEPM Special Publications, vol 83, pp 49–85

  45. MacEachern JA, Gingras MK (2007) Recognition of brackish-water trace fossil suites in the Cretaceous Western interior Seaway of Alberta. In: Bromley RG, Buatois LA, Mángano MG, Genise JF, Melchor RN (eds) Sedimente organism interactions: a multifaceted ichnology, SEPM Special Publications, vol 88, pp 147–192

  46. Martinius AW, Gowland S (2011) Tide-influenced fluvial bedforms and tidal bore deposits (Late Jurassic Lourinhã Formation, Lusitanian Basin, Western Portugal). Sedimentology 58:285–324

    Google Scholar 

  47. Mellere D, Steel RJ (1995) Tidal sedimentation in Inner Hebrides half-grabens, Scotland: the mid-Jurassic Bearreraig sandstone formation. In: De Batist M, Jacobs P (eds) Geology of siliciclastic shelf seas. Special Publication, vol 117. Geological Society of London, London, pp 49–79

  48. Miall AD (2014) Fluvial depositional systems. Springer, Berlin

    Google Scholar 

  49. Murray AM, Cook TD, Attia YS, Chatrath P, Simons EL (2010) A freshwater ichthyofauna from the late Eocene Birket Qarun Formation, Fayum, Egypt. J Vertebr Paleontol 30:665–680. https://doi.org/10.1080/02724631003758060

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Nio SD, Yang CS (1991) Diagnostic attributes of clastic tidal deposits: a review. In: Smith DG, Reinson GE, Zaitlin BA, Rahmani RA (eds) Clastic tidal sedimentology. Canadian Society of Petroleum Geology, Memories, pp 3–28

  51. Olariu C, Steel RJ, Petter AL (2010) Delta-front hyperpycnal bed geometry and implications for reservoir modelling. AAPG Bull 94(6):819–845. https://doi.org/10.1306/11020909072

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Peters SE, Antar MS, Zalmout IS, Gingerich PD (2009) Sequence stratigraphic control on preservation of Late Eocene whales and other vertebrates at Wadi al-Hitan, Egypt. Palaios 24:290–302

    Google Scholar 

  53. Plint AG, Wadsworth JA (2003) Sedimentology and palaeogeomorphology of four large valley systems incising delta plains, western Canada Foreland Basin: implications for mid-Cretaceous sea-level changes. Sedimentology 50:1147–1186

    Google Scholar 

  54. Posamentier HW, Allen GP (1999) Siliciclastic sequence stratigraphy: concepts and applications, concepts in sedimentology and paleontology 7. Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists (SEPM)

  55. Rahmani RA (1988) Estuarine tidal channel and nearshore sedimentation of a Late Cretaceous epicontinental sea, Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. In: de Boer PL, van Gelder A, Nio SD (eds) Tide-influenced sedimentary environments and facies. D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, pp 433–471

    Google Scholar 

  56. Rasmussen ES (2014) Development of an incised-valley fill under the influence of tectonism and glacio-eustatic sea-level change: valley morphology, fluvial style, and lithology. J Sediment Res 84:278–300

    Google Scholar 

  57. Said R (1962) The geology of Egypt. Elsevier, Amsterdam

    Google Scholar 

  58. Said R (1990) Cenozoic. In: Said R (ed) The geology of Egypt. A. A. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 451–486

    Google Scholar 

  59. Salem R (1976) Evolution of Eocene–Miocene sedimentation patterns in parts of Northern Egypt. AAPG Bull 60:34–64

    Google Scholar 

  60. Seiffert ER, Bown TM, Clyde WC, Simons EL (2008) Geology, paleoenvironment, and age of Birket Qarun locality 2 (BQ-2), Fayum Depression, Egypt. In: Fleagle JG, Gilbert CC (eds) Elwyn Simons: a search for origins. Springer Press, New York, pp 71–86

    Google Scholar 

  61. Shanley KW, McCabe PJ, Hettinger RD (1992) Tidal influence in Cretaceous fluvial strata from Utah, USA: a key to sequence stratigraphic interpretation. Sedimentology 39:905–930

    Google Scholar 

  62. Sharp RP (1963) Wind ripples. J Geol 71:617–636

    Google Scholar 

  63. Strougo A (2008) The Mokattamian Stage: 125 years later. Middle East Research Center Ain Shams University. Earth Sci Ser 22:47–108

    Google Scholar 

  64. Strougo A, Faris M, Haggag MAY, Abul-Nasr RA, Gingerich PD (2013) Planktonic foraminifera and calcareous nannofossil biostratigraphy through the middle to late Eocene transition at Wadi Hitan, Fayum Province, Egypt. Contrib Mus Paleontol Univ Mich 32:111–138

    Google Scholar 

  65. Swedan AH (1992) Stratigraphy of the Eocene sediments in the Faiyum area. Ann Geol Surv Egypt 18:157–166

    Google Scholar 

  66. Swift DJP, Thorne JA (1991) Sedimentation on continental margins, I: a general model for shelf sedimentation. In: Swift DJP, Oertel GF, Tillman RW, Thorne JA (eds) Shelf sand and sandstone bodies: geometry, facies and sequence stratigraphy: International Association of Sedimentologists: Special Publication, vol 14, pp 3–31

  67. Tessier B (1993) Upper intertidal rhythmites in the Mont Saint-Michel Bay (NW France): perspectives for paleoreconstruction. Mar Geol 110:355–367

    Google Scholar 

  68. Tessier B (2012) Stratigraphy of tide-dominated estuaries. Springer, Berlin

    Google Scholar 

  69. Underwood CJ, King C, Steurbaut E (2013) Eocene initiation of Nile drainage due to East African uplift. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 392:138–145

    Google Scholar 

  70. Underwood CJ, Ward DJ, King C, Antar SM et al (2011) Shark and ray faunas in the middle and Late Eocene of the Fayum Area, Egypt. Proc Geol Assoc 122:47–66

    Google Scholar 

  71. Van den Berg JH, Boersma JR, Van Gelder A (2007) Diagnostic sedimentary structures of the fluvial-tidal transition zone. Evidence from deposits of the Rhine and Meuse. Geol Mijnb 86:287–306

    Google Scholar 

  72. Van Wagoner JC, Mitchum RM, Campion KM, Rahmanian VD (1990) Siliciclastic sequence stratigraphy in well logs, cores, and outcrops: concepts for high-resolution correlation of time and facies. American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Methods in exploration series, vol 7

  73. Vondra CF (1974) Upper Eocene transitional and nearshore marine Qasr el Sagha Formation, Fayum Depression, Egypt. Ann Geol Surv Egypt 4:79–94

    Google Scholar 

  74. Wanas HA (2008) Calcite-cemented concretions in shallow marine and fluvial sandstones of the Birket Qarun Formation (Late Eocene), El-Faiyum depression, Egypt: field, petrographic and geochemical studies: implications for formation conditions. Sediment Geol 212:40–48

    Google Scholar 

  75. Zaitlin BA, Dalrymple RW, Boyd R (1994). The stratigraphic organization of incised-valley systems associated with relative sea-level change. In: Dalrymple RW, Boyd R, Zaitlin BA (eds) Incised valley systems: origin and sedimentary sequences. SEPM Special Publications, vol 51, pp 45–60

Download references

Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the Deanship of Scientific Research (DSR), King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, under grant No. (D598-150-1441). The authors, therefore, gratefully acknowledge DSR technical and financial support. Special thanks to Prof. Charlie J. Underwood (Birkbeck, University of London) and Prof. Amin Strougo (Ain Shams University, Egypt) for their insightful discussions related to the stratigraphy of the area and providing the geologic map. The author is thankful for the thoughtful and constructive comments from the editor and the reviewers, which significantly improved the quality of this work.

Funding

This work was funded by the Deanship of Scientific Research (DSR), King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, under Grant No. (D-598-150-1441).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ibrahim Mohamed Ghandour.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

Not applicable.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ghandour, I.M. The effect of early Priabonian sea-level change on the depositional architecture of the lower Qasr El-Sagha Formation, Kom Aushim, NE Fayum, Egypt. Int J Earth Sci (Geol Rundsch) 109, 2739–2757 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00531-020-01922-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Qasr El-Sagha Formation
  • Umm Rigl Member
  • Fayum Depression
  • Incised valley-fill
  • Fluvio-estuarine transition
  • Bay-margin delta