Mediterranean Geoscience Reviews

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 45–53 | Cite as

Raised braided stream gravels on Mount Keldağ, Hatay (Eastern Mediterranean coast, Turkey): implications of transformation to beachrock and ensuing tectonic uplift

  • Ahmet Evren ErginalEmail author
  • Georgios S. Polymeris
  • Atilla Karataş
  • Valeria Giannoulatou
  • Eren Şahiner
  • Niyazi Meriç
  • Oya Erenoğlu
  • H. Haluk Selim
  • Mustafa Karabıyıkoğlu
Original Paper


On the seaward northwest slopes of Mount Keldağ, Hatay, the combination of an unconformably overlapping sequence of cemented gravels on a wave-cut platform, and a raised notch and irregular pits left by grazing molluscs on the walls of this notch, carved in an NE-trending high-angle fault plane, retain the record of raised braided stream gravels transformed into beachrock. From the OSL ages, this study reveals that deposition of this sequence occurred between 232.30 ± 31.62 and 214.01 ± 27.42 ka during the penultimate interglacial. The four distinct facies identified are massive matrix-supported conglomerate, massive to crudely stratified gravel, cross-stratified gravel, and clast-supported open-work gravel. Extending to the paleo-coastline during the MIS7 highstand, this sequence was cemented by carbonate and iron-oxide cements and records an uplift of around 0.1 mm/year up to the present.


Raised stream gravels Beachrock MIS7 Penultimate interglacial Mt. Keldağ Turkey 


The southwestern shores of Hatay in SE Turkey have been the focus of increasing interest due the discovery of raised coasts on the southern part of Asi River since the pioneering studies initiated by Pfannestiel (1953), followed by Erol (1963, 1969). Various authors have generally paid attention to describing and dating mollusc fauna within marine terraces at different elevations as well as shoreline traces, because they imply the existence of former sea levels on tectonically raised cliffs along the rocky coast near Mt. Keldağ (Erol 1963, 1969; Erol and Pirazzoli 1992; Pirazzoli et al. 1991, 1993; Seyrek et al. 2008; Doğan et al. 2012). Pleistocene marine deposits at an altitude of 140 m and Holocene coastal traces reaching up to 2.5 m have been investigated (Erol and Pirazzoli 1992; Pirazzoli et al. 1993; Florentin et al. 2014; Tarı et al. 2018). The intensive impact of neotectonics on the region and continuing tectonic activity (Selçuk 1985; Över et al. 2001, 2004; Rojay et al. 2001; Karabacak et al. 2010) are the most important causes of the constant uplifting movement and growth in its magnitude.

The papers mentioned above reveal that raised coasts in this area preserve a record of various MIS stages from early Holocene to MIS7. On the other hand, there has been no record of the existence of cemented gravel deposits typical of deposition by a paleo-braided river extending to the paleo-coastline, suggesting, in turn, beachrock-type cementation characteristics. This paper is the first attempt to discuss the origin and age of well-preserved carbonate-cemented conglomerates on the south coast of Samandağ, Hatay, the easternmost part of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast near the Syrian border. The facies architecture is discussed along with composition of the cemented deposits based on petrographic description and the successive types of binding cement fabrics. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) was applied for the age estimation. The cemented beach sediments at Samandağ, Hatay discussed in this study, on the other hand, bring a different perspective on the formation of cemented beach deposits.

Materials and methods

Study area

The studied sequence lies on the northwest slopes of Mount Keldağ (1739 m) (Jebel Akra, Jebel Aqra, Mount Casius) which rises on the southern part of the Asi (Orontes) River delta with an NW–SE trending 14 km-long linear coastline on the eastern Mediterranean coast (Fig. 1). With a linear alignment from northeast to southwest, the Asi River follows the so-called Antakya-Kahramanmaraş graben that separates Mt. Keldağ from the Amanos Mountains to the north. The Dead Sea Fault between the African, Arabian and Anatolian plates, the Eastern Anatolian Fault, the Cyprus Arc, and the Cyprus-Antakya Transform Fault constitute the main faults in the region. Influenced by these faults and the direction of movement of the slabs, a semi-independent structure called the Adana-Kilikya inter-block has emerged in the region and is effective on tectonic development and the current structure (Şengör and Yılmaz 1981; Toprak et al. 2002; Meghraoui et al. 2011). The cemented conglomerates discussed herein rest unconformably on Cretaceous limestone. According to data from Samandağ meteorological station (1975–2015), the area receives an average annual rainfall of 887.7 mm. The mean annual air and seawater temperatures are 19 °C and 21.8 °C, respectively. During May–September, the amount of evaporation from seawater reaches 800 mm. Accordingly, semi-humid subtropical conditions with cool and rainy winters and hot and dry summers dominate the study area (Türkeş 1996). The tidal amplitude is 14.9 cm (Öztürk 2011).
Fig. 1

Location map of study area (a) and general view of sampling site (b) (after Akyuz et al. 2006; Karabacak et al. 2010)

Sampling and analyses

Three samples of beachrock beds were collected for analysis and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) age determination. Samples coded as S1L1-a, S1L1-b, and S1L1-c were collected at 40 cm vertical intervals, i.e., the sand-rich parts of the lower, middle, and upper units of a 1.2 m-thick deposit. Thin-section analyses of four sub-samples in the sand-rich portions were carried out to determine mineral fabrics and composition. The elemental composition and analyses of cement fabrics on, around, and between the grains were carried out using a Philips XL-30 FEG Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) equipped with EDX detector. Analyses were carried out in the Centre for Materials Research at the Izmir Institute of Technology (IYTE-MAM), Turkey.

OSL dating

OSL measurements, chemical procedure, and handling

During field work, the sediment samples were cleaned by hammering and then subsequently wrapped in black bags to avoid further light exposure. The three samples were re-opened inside the OSL dating laboratory of the Institute of Nuclear Sciences, Ankara University, Turkey, under dim red-light conditions. For the luminescence analyses, the hard, almost 0.75 cm-thick outer surface of the samples was removed to eliminate the light-subjected portions.

After crushing the inner part using a mortar, grains of the material were first treated with hydrochloric acid (10%) to remove carbonates and H2O2 (35%) to remove organic material. Fresh hydrogen peroxide was continuously added until the chemical reaction stopped. Subsequently, wet sieving was performed and 90–140 mm grains were obtained. Treatment with hydrofluoric acid (40%, 45–60 min) and a final treatment with hydrochloric acid (10%) to obtain a clean quartz extract were performed. Aliquots with a mass of ~ 7 mg each were prepared by mounting the material on stainless-steel disks. Each aliquot’s size corresponds to 1500–1800 mineral grains within the selected 90–140 μm sediment fraction. The purity of the quartz extract grains was tested by the absence of luminescence signals during infrared stimulation at room temperature (infrared/blue stimulated luminescence ratios < 1%, Murray et al. 2015).

OSL dating apparatus and measurement protocol

All OSL measurements were conducted at the OSL dating laboratory of the Institute of Nuclear Sciences, Ankara using a Risø TL/OSL reader (model TL/OSL-DA-20) with a 90Sr/90Y beta source, providing a dose rate of 0.116 ± 0.004 Gy/s. A 9635QB photomultiplier tube was used for the light detection. The stimulation wavelength is 470 ± 20 nm in the case of blue stimulation, delivering at the sample position a maximum power of 40 mW/cm2 (Bøtter-Jensen et al. 2000). The detection optics consisted of a 7.5 mm Hoya U-340 filter (λp ~ 340 nm, FWHM ~ 80 nm), which has a peak transmission at around 340 nm. All OSL measurements were performed at the continuous wave (CW-OSL) configuration, with the blue light stimulation power held at 90%, i.e., 36 m Wcm−2, for a stimulation time of 150 s at 125 °C. All (pre-) heating was performed in a nitrogen atmosphere with a low constant heating rate of 2 °C/s to avoid significant temperature lag (Kitis et al. 2015).

The protocol that was applied for the equivalent dose (ED hereafter) measurements consists of a typical Single Aliquot Regenerative (SAR) dose (Murray and Wintle 2000), including eight cycles; one for the natural OSL signal, five cycles with increasing regenerative doses, one zero-dose recuperation cycle, and a final recycling ratio cycle, involving the lowest regenerative dose. The regenerative doses were 30, 60, 90, 115, and 180 Gy. After each regenerative dose, the sample was preheated at 240 °C for 10 s to empty unstable traps; this preheating temperature was selected according to preliminary preheat plateau tests. Sensitivity changes were both monitored and corrected with the aid of a test dose of 15 Gy, delivered after each regenerative, natural, and zero-dose OSL measurement.

After each test dose, a cut heat at 180 °C was applied, as the use of cut heat had been successfully applied in our previous studies (Polymeris et al. 2009; Kiyak and Erginal, 2010). All signals were integrated over the first second of stimulation out of the 150 s of the entire curve. A background was subsequently subtracted based on the last 5 s (145–150 s) of stimulation. The final ED value was obtained as the average of the independently measured values. At least 16 aliquots were measured for each sample; nevertheless, outliers have been excluded and the exact number of aliquots used is presented in Table 1. Acceptance criteria for these independent ED values include 1.0 ± 0.12 values for the recycling ratio and a threshold of 15% recuperation, expressed as a percentage of the natural OSL signal. Values of equivalent doses beyond 3σ of the mean estimate were omitted. For estimation of the dose rate (DR hereafter), the geochemical content of each sample was measured using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Dose rate calculations were made using the conversion factors of Liritzis et al. (2013). The cosmic contribution to the dose rate was theoretically calculated according to the sampling depth and geological coordinates. Water content of around 25% was determined by routine analyses with a moisture analyser.
Table 1

OSL ages obtained from the studied coastal deposit

Sample code

U (ppm)

U error (ppm)

Th (ppm)

Th error (ppm)

K (%)

Κ error (%)

ED (Gy)

ED error (Gy)

DRβ (Gy/Ka)

DRγ (Gy/Ka)

Total DRa (Gy/Ka)

Water content

Age (Ka)

Age error (Ka)


















































aFor the total dose rate, the contribution of cosmic rays has been included, especially since the samples are collected close to the Earth’s surface

Results and discussion

OSL ages

Figure 2a presents a typical and illustrative diagram of an SAR growth curve, corrected for sensitivity changes, for an aliquot from sample S1L1a. ED values were estimated by interpolation in the corrected OSL growth curve (mostly using a linear-plus-saturation-exponential), as the dose required to produce a natural signal. Furthermore, the dose–response curves show dose–response signal growth in perfect continuum, as shown in Fig. 2a; however, the conventional OSL signal is saturated in most cases. The inset in the same figure presents examples of OSL curves measured at various cycles of the SAR protocol. All OSL signals yield a fast decaying component, which has totally decayed after 50 s of stimulation. The OSL data required for age calculation are included in Table 1. According to this data, the ED values for all samples are quite large, in the order of 100 Gy or even larger, with error values in the order of 8%. To the contrary, the contents of 232Th, 40K, and natural U are quite low, indicating values of less than 1 ppm in the case of U, less than 2 ppm for 232Th and less than 0.3% for 40K.
Fig. 2

a Typical example of dose–response (growth) curve for corrected OSL signal for sample S1L1a; diamonds indicate five regenerative cycles with sequentially increasing doses, red dot indicates recuperation cycle measurement, star indicates recycling measurement, and square indicates natural OSL (NOSL) measurement. Error bars correspond to 1σ. Line corresponds to linear-plus-saturating-exponential fitting. b ED value was calculated as 103.6 ± 8.1 Gy. Inset presents OSL curves of natural as well as all five regenerative cycles. Note that inset presents OSL curves for initial 4 s of stimulation. Plot 2b shows histogram distribution of ED values for sample S1L1b. Solid line indicates best Gaussian fit

Figure 2b presents a distribution of ED values as calculated for sample S1L1b. The narrow distribution indicates good reproducibility, thus justifying the presence of well-bleached grains inside the samples. Similar features were also monitored in the two other samples. OSL ages were calculated within the range of between 214 and 232 ka; these ages are also presented in tabulated form (Table 1). Ages show a scattering of around 15%, yielding the limit of the OSL dating method, due to low radionuclide concentration as well as the large (saturating) values of ED. Therefore, it would be beneficial to further cross-check these ages with novel techniques such as TA-OSL, TT-OSL, and violet stimulation (providing age limit extension) using different filter packs to extend the application areas of the luminescence application scale on terrestrial materials.

Pre-cementation environment and co-existing paleo-shoreline markers

Tilted up to 10° from NE to SW, the cemented deposits are limestone-derived and weakly cemented fine-to-coarse conglomerate, lying about 5–25 m above the mean sea level on the northwest slopes of Mt. Keldağ (Fig. 3a). The maximum thickness of the N50E-trending raised deposit is 1.2 m (Fig. 3b), behind which a tidal notch at 14 m amsl (Fig. 3c) is carved into the NE-trending high-angle fault planes (dips of nearly 65°) with cemented fault breccia. Trending for about 200 m, the beds are conglomerate in composition, including gravels derived almost totally from limestone. The cemented gravels unconformably overlie the limestone basement incised sharply by a wave-cut platform (Fig. 3d, e), terminating at the back in tidal notches with traces of etching by rock barnacles.
Fig. 3

Overview of Keldağ conglomerate (a) overlying the limestone basement unconformably with a steeply inclined surface, closer view of cemented gravels at 23 m amsl (b), raised wave-cut platform and tidal notch at 14 m amsl (c), and view of cliffed coast where cemented stream gravels lie on Cretaceous limestone (d)

Four distinct facies were recognised in the conglomerate, based on interpretation of the textural characteristics and sedimentary structures. These are (1) massive matrix-supported conglomerate, (2) massive to crudely stratified gravel, (3) cross-stratified gravel, and (4) clast-supported open-work gravel (Fig. 4).
Fig. 4

Facies architecture of Keldağ braided stream gravels with facies numbers in Sect. 3.2

Facies 1 is a matrix-supported boulder gravel unit. It consists of massive, poorly sorted, and disorganized coarse gravels with sub-rounded-to-well-rounded boulders and gravels floating in a cohesive muddy red matrix, suggesting rapid deposition from viscous and high-density subaerial debris flow. Facies 2 consists of massive to crudely stratified clast-supported fine-to-coarse gravels characterized by gently inclined tabular beds, channel fills, and faintly defined bedding contacts. The gravels are poorly-to-moderately sorted and sub-rounded-to-well-rounded. They commonly show a disorganized fabric, except for a few imbricated pebbles, and have a red intergranular sandy matrix. This facies represents longitudinal (mid-channel) gravel bars and channel fills in a shallow braided stream. Faintly defined bedding contacts suggest slight changes in the energy level of the transporting currents over time. A cross-stratified gravel unit represents the third facies type, represented by planar tabular and trough cross-bedded, fine-to-coarse, moderately-to-well sorted and rounded, clast-supported gravels with a red intergranular sandy matrix. This facies representing linguoid and transverse bars with downstream avalanche facies indicates a high stage of transportation and low-stage deposition in a shallow braided stream and is overlain by longitudinal gravel bars.

Transformation from stream gravels to beachrock

Thin-section analyses of the four sand-rich sub-samples revealed that the gravel-sized grains are commonly composed of dolomitic and micritic limestones as well as pelletic limestone fragments (Fig. 5). The grains bound to each other are mostly well-rounded. The dolomitic limestone and dolomite crystals were crystallised in the romboedric system. These are easily distinguished from calcite minerals due to rhombic forms. The carbonate cement between and around the grains is composed of spary calcite as well as some dolomite crystals, the latter of which explains the replacement of calcite ions with Mg2+ ions, having been added to the binding carbonate from sea water. In some examples, the presence of significant amounts of iron in the cement is noticeable, distinguished by a distinct red colour in the rock, making the cemented components resistant to weathering, as in arid climates.
Fig. 5

Thin-section micrographs (ad), and SEM images showing sequential cement textures formed by micritic envelopes and meniscus bridges (e, f). DL Dolomitic limestone, Mc Micrite, P Pellet, Do Dolomite, Cal Calcite

SEM analysis of the samples collected from sand-rich parts of the conglomerates showed, albeit unspecifically, micritic envelopes and meniscus bridges as sequential cement textures. The void ratio is very high, which is not likely related to the diagenetic history of the beachrock cementation but rather to the loss of carbonates due to subaerial exposure of this raised coastal deposit. Samples taken from the upper level of the sequence could only be analysed using EDX where the cement micromorphology on SEM images was clear enough to be viewed. The analysed SEM image is shown in Fig. 5. The carbonate coating on the grains contains crystals of calcite of varying size as well as etched crystal surfaces due to dissolution under subaerial exposure. By arranging the elements in their decreasing order of O > Ca > C > Mg > Si > Al > Fe, it is seen that the samples contain abundant CaCO3 (over 90%) as the connective cement with a high amount of Mg, except for one sample. Considering that the carbonate coating on and around the grains is composed of high Mg-calcite (5.9–6.4% mol MgCO3), which is typical for marine ambiences with ˃ 3 mol % MgCO3, the connective carbonates could have been precipitated from evaporated seawater based on the existence of micritic coatings and meniscus bridges. Thus, cementation of the amalgamating grains and gravels likely commenced with the precipitation of micritic coatings, followed by pore-filling spary calcites and meniscus bridges. These fabrics, suggestive of intertidal and upper intertidal cements (Vousdoukas et al. 2007), are common as various authors which have pinpointed along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey from the Gulf of Iskenderun to the Gulf of Saros (Erol 1972; Bener 1974; Erginal et al. 2008, 2010; Çiner et al. 2009; Desruelles et al. 2009), as well as the inland Marmara Sea (Erginal 2012; Ertek et al. 2015) and, unexpectedly, the Thracian Black Sea coast of Turkey (Erginal et al. 2013).

Ages and implications for tectonic uplift

In this study, the OSL age of the sample taken from the sand-laden part of the lowermost level of the 1.2-m-thick conglomerate resting unconformably on the wave-cut platform was 232.30 ± 31.62 ka. The samples taken from the middle and upper parts of the sequence were 220.27 ± 28.12 ka and 214.01 ± 27.42 ka, respectively. Accordingly, the cemented braided stream gravels might have been deposited during the penultimate interglacial (MIS7). Given the margin of error range for the age and that these ages remain within MIS7, it is not possible to specify the isotope stages of MIS7. As for the MIS7 interglacial, similar to coasts all around the world (see Lopes et al. 2014 for a detailed discussion), studies on the Mediterranean coastline give very different results on the amplitude of highstands or the relative sea level, such as + 4.2 (Vesica et al. 2000) or − 1 m (Goy et al. 2006) during MIS7e in Spain, − 18.5 to − 9 during MIS7a (Bard et al. 2002) and − 18 m from MIS7e to 7a (Dutton et al. 2009) in Italy.

Providing conclusive evidence of the rapid uplift of the cliffed coast, facies characteristics of the Mt. Keldağ gravel deposits indicate a braided stream with shallow channels that formed at the base of the fault-bounded front of Mt. Keldağ. The above-mentioned cement fabrics of the raised beds of conglomerate are, on the other hand, suggestive of a transformation of the braided stream gravel and coarse sand into beachrock, which could be considered as an exceptional example of the formation of beachrock. Even though the occurrence of late Pleistocene beachrock on a coast is unusual, residuals of aragonite-cemented beachrock beds were previously identified on Turkey’s raised coasts by Yaltırak et al. (2002) at Iyisu on the west shoreline of the Çanakkale Straits (Dardanelles) dated to 205 ± 7.4 ka and 186.5 ± 6.6 ka.

Thus, it can be suggested that the former stream deposits studied most likely extended to the paleo-coastline during the MIS7 highstand where they formed a small braid delta and are indicative of a pre-cementation environment. The obtained ages demonstrate that, despite the range of error, the studied MIS7 sequence together with the tidal notch and the wave-cut platform has been raised about 25 m since that time, pointing to an uplift of around 0.1 mm/year up to the present. This is in good agreement with MIS7e ages obtained from marine terraces near Samandağ lying at 35–40 m (Seyrek et al. 2008) but lower than the marine terrace deposits on both sides of the Antakya graben, yielding regional uplift rates ranging between 2.3 and 0.1 mm (Tarı et al. 2018).


The facies, geomorphological characteristics, and OSL ages of the carbonate-cemented conglomerate that covers a raised wave-cut platform backed by a tidal notch on the seaward side of Mount Keldağ preserve a record of the transformation of braided stream gravels into beachrock during the MIS7 highstand. Albeit not so specific as in examples of intertidal beachrock, the micritic coating and meniscus bridges acting as connective carbonates are found along with iron-oxide rings encircling the grains. Results testify to the fact that the sequence, dominated by shallow braided stream gravels except for viscous and high-density subaerial debris flow deposits at the bottom, extended to the paleo-coastline during the MIS7 highstand. The co-existing SW-inclined wave-cut platform, tidal notch, and studied MIS7 deposit constitute conclusive evidence of coastal uplift of approximately 0.1 mm/year up to the present.



AEE thanks the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA) for their support in the framework of the Distinguished Young Scientist Award Program (TÜBA-GEBİP). Graham H. Lee is thanked for proofreading the English in the earlier version of the paper. We thank two anonymous reviewers for critically reading the paper and suggesting constructive comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ahmet Evren Erginal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Georgios S. Polymeris
    • 2
  • Atilla Karataş
    • 3
  • Valeria Giannoulatou
    • 2
  • Eren Şahiner
    • 2
  • Niyazi Meriç
    • 2
  • Oya Erenoğlu
    • 1
  • H. Haluk Selim
    • 4
  • Mustafa Karabıyıkoğlu
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Geography EducationÇanakkale Onsekiz Mart UniversityÇanakkaleTurkey
  2. 2.Institute of Nuclear SciencesAnkara UniversityAnkaraTurkey
  3. 3.Department of GeographyMarmara UniversityİstanbulTurkey
  4. 4.Department of Jewellery EngineeringIstanbul Commerce UniversityIstanbulTurkey
  5. 5.Department of GeographyArdahan UniversityArdahanTurkey

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