GEOLOGICA CARPATHICA, DECEMBER 2006, 57, 6, 511—530
Geochronology of Neogene magmatism in the Carpathian arc
and intra-Carpathian area
, JAROSLAV LEXA
, ALEXANDRU SZAKÁCS
, IOAN SEGHEDI
, VLASTIMIL KONEČNÝ
, TIBOR ZELENKA
, MARINEL KOVACS
, ALEXANDRINA FÜLÖP
, EMŐ MÁRTON
, CRISTIAN PANAIOTU
and VLADICA CVETKOVIĆ
Institute of Nuclear Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 51, Bem tér 18/c, H-4001 Debrecen, Hungary;
Geological Survey of Slovak Republic, Mlynská dolina 1, 817 04 Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Geological Institute, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 9, 845 04 Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Institute of Geodynamics, str. Jean-Luis Calderon 19—21, 70201 Bucharest, Romania
Geological Survey of Hungary, Stefánia u. 15, Budapest, Hungary
North University Baia Mare, Victor Babe Str. 62A, 4800 Baia Mare, Romania
Laboratory for Geochemical Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budaőrsi u. 45, Budapest, Hungary
ELGI, Columbus u. 17—23, 1145 Budapest, Hungary
Paleomagnetism Laboratory, University of Bucharest, Bălcescu 1, 70111 Bucharest, Romania
Faculty of Mining and Geology, University of Belgrade, Djušina 7, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
(Manuscript received October 27, 2005; accepted in revised form June 22, 2006)
Abstract: Neogene to Quaternary volcanism in the Carpathian-Pannonian Region was related to the youngest evolutionary
stage of the Carpathian arc and the intra-Carpathian area, with subduction, extension and asthenospheric upwelling as the main
driving mechanisms. Volcanism occurred between 21 and 0.1 Ma, and showed a distinct migration in time from West to East.
Several groups of calc-alkaline magmatic rock-types (felsic, intermediate and mafic varieties) have been distinguished, and
several minor alkalic types also occur, including shoshonitic, K-trachytic, ultrapotassic and alkali basaltic. On the basis of spatial
distribution, relationship to tectonic processes and their chemical composition, the volcanic formations can be divided into:
(1) areally distributed felsic calc-alkaline formations related to the initial stages of back-arc extension, (2) areally distributed
intermediate calc-alkaline formations related to advanced stages of back-arc extension, (3) “arc-type” andesite volcanic
formations with a complex relationship to subduction processes, and (4) alkali basaltic magmatism related to post-convergence
extension. Petrological data and geotectonic reconstructions, which involve these magmatic groups, place significant con-
straints on geodynamic models of the Carpathian-Pannonian area. Subduction and back-arc extension were not contempora-
neous across the whole Carpathian arc and intra-Carpathian area. Instead, three major geographical segments can be defined
(Western, Central, Eastern segments) with a progressively younger timing of subduction roll-back and back-arc extension:
21—11 Ma, 16—9 Ma, 14—0 Ma, respectively. Short-lived subduction-related volcanic activity can be interpreted as either an
indication of a limited width of subducted crust (not greater than 200 km) or an indication of detachment of the sinking slab.
Interpretation of the areally distributed felsic and intermediate calc-alkaline volcanic formations are considered as being
initiated by back-arc extension induced by diapiric uprise of “fertile” asthenospheric material.
Key words: Carpathians, intra-Carpathian areas, volcanism, radiometric dating, space-time evolution, geodynamics.
The evolution of magmatism is a key issue in understanding
the large-scale geodynamic processes involved in orogenesis
in areas of plate convergence. The Carpathian-Pannonian
Region (CPR), part of the Alpine-Himalayan orogenic sys-
tem, resulted from the closure of the former Tethys Ocean.
Thus it is a location where a complex array of processes re-
lated to plate convergence can be studied. The Carpathian
thrust-and-fold belt is a sinuous orogenic segment, situated
between the Eastern Alps and Balkans, embracing the intra-
Carpathian area, which is mostly occupied by the Pannonian
Basin (Fig. 1). It acquired its present form mostly due to the
Tertiary orogenic evolution, concluded by collision pro-
cesses along the European continental margin.
During the past decade, remarkable progress has been made
in understanding the geodynamic evolution of the CPR. As
magmatism results from processes in the crust and mantle, an
investigation of the widespread magmatism that accompanied
the Neogene/Quaternary evolution of the region has always
been a fundamental part of that effort. Recently published pa-
pers have addressed various problems of petrology and
geochemistry, as well as the link between geotectonic evolu-
tion and magmatism (e.g. Csontos 1995; Lexa & Konečný
PÉCSKAY et al.
1998; Mason et al. 1998; Nemčok et al. 1998; Seghedi et al.
1998, 2004a,b; Harangi 2001a,b; Konečný et al. 2002b).
A complete knowledge of the space-time distribution and
evolution of the magmatism is a key to understanding the
general geodynamic development of the CPR. Our previous
review (Pécskay et al. 1995a) presented the first synthesis of
geochronological data available at that time. Since then a
great deal of new analytical data (radiometric, paleomag-
netic, geochemical) and geological results (volcanological,
paleontological, etc.) has been accumulated. This work con-
centrated on the gaps revealed by our previous review. These
included (a) the buried volcanism within the Pannonian Ba-
sin, which has been analysed thanks to the availability of
drill-hole material from oil companies, and (b) some of the
less well-known areas, such as the Bükk Foreland, Cserhát-
Mátra, Transcarpathian segment, Central Slovakia Volcanic
Field, Transylvanian Basin, Per ani Mountains, Pieniny and
Moravia (Fig. 2). Most of the new results have already been
published or are in press (see references in Tables 1 and 2).
The main purposes of this paper are (1) to synthesize the new
evidence obtained during the past decade and to integrate it
with the previously published data, in order to investigate
correlations between the different segments of the CPR and
(2) to build up an overall picture of the evolution of the Neo-
gene-Quaternary magmatism. Thus, these data are aimed at a
better understanding of the geodynamic processes in the area.
Regional geotectonic setting
The Carpathian orogenic arc forms an arcuate mountain
range between the Alps and the Balkans (Fig. 1). It encircles
a major basin domain (regarded as the intra-Carpathian
area) consisting of an assemblage of intramontane basins,
dominated by the Pannonian Basin with a number of small
related basins (Danube Basin, Styrian Basin, Great Hungar-
ian Plain) and relatively elevated areas (Transdanubian
Central Range, Mecsek Mountains, and the Apuseni Moun-
tains the latter separating the Pannonian Basin from the
Transylvanian Basin). This picture is the result of plate-con-
Fig. 1. Sketch geological map showing location and distribution of Neogene-Quaternary igneous rocks in the Carpathian-Pannonian Region.
Volcanic areas are numbered in Tables 1, 2 and Fig. 2 as following: Intra-Carpathian area: (1) Drava-Sava Depression, (2) Styrian Basin,
Burgenland, Pohorje, (3) Southern Transdanubia, (4) Mecsek, (5) Transdanubian Central Range and Zala Basin, (6) Danube Basin and Little
Hungarian Plain, (7) Southern Danube-Tisza Interfluves region, (8) Northern Danube-Tisza Interfluves region, (9) Bükk Foreland, (10) Cen-
tral Trans-Tisza region, (11) Nógrád-Southern Slovakia, (12) Cserhát-Mátra, (13) Visegrád-Börzsöny-Burda, (14) Krupinská Planina,
(15) Štiavnička stratovolcano, (16) Vtáčnik-Kremnické vrchy, (17) Javorie, (18) Po ana, (19) Vepor region, (20) Borsod Basin, (21) Banat
region, (22), Apuseni Mountains, (23) Transylvanian Basin; Carpathians: (24) Eastern Moravia, (25) Pieniny, (26) Tokaj-Milic-Zemplín,
(27) Slanské vrchy, (28) Vihorlat, (29) Gutin range, (30) Beregovo region, (31) Northern Trans-Tisza region, (32) Oa , (33) Gutâi,
(34) ible -Toroiaga-Rodna-Bârgău (TTRB), (35) Călimani, (36) Gurghiu, (37) North Harghita, (38) South Harghita, (39) Per ani.
GEOCHRONOLOGY OF NEOGENE MAGMATISM IN THE CARPATHIAN ARC
Fig. 2. Synopsis of K/Ar ages of magmatic rocks from the CPR shown in Fig. 1. The numbers of the columns correspond to those reported in Fig. 1. The volcanic evolution of each area is described
on the basis of radiometric ages (time interval presented in Tables 1 and 2). Where radiometric ages are lacking, available biostratigraphic data have been used for chronological findings.
PÉCSKAY et al.
Table 1: Timing of volcanic activity in the intra-Carpathian area, showing age intervals for different rock type groups and volcanic areas.
Continued on the next pages.
GEOCHRONOLOGY OF NEOGENE MAGMATISM IN THE CARPATHIAN ARC
Table 1: Continued.
PÉCSKAY et al.
vergence processes involving a number of continental frag-
ments or microplates located between the larger Eurasian
and African Plates (e.g. Csontos et al. 1992; Csontos 1995).
Tertiary translational and rotational movements of these
microplates, trapped between the two great continental
blocks, formed the Carpathian orogenic system (Panaiotu
1999; Márton & Fodor 2003).
Geodynamic processes involved subduction (including
roll-back and slab break-off), thrust-and-fold orogenesis of
the accretionary prism due to collision tectonics, back-arc
extension, and lithospheric rotations and escape tectonics as a
response to continent/continent collision in the neighbouring
orogenic systems of the Alps and Balkans (Royden 1988;
Ratschbacher et al. 1991; Nemčok et al. 1998; Seghedi et
al. 1998; Panaiotu 1999; Konečný et al. 2002b). The east-
ward translation of the intra-Carpathian continental blocks
(ALCAPA (Alpine-Carpathian-Pannonian) and Tisza-Dacia
or Tisia) (Csontos et al. 1992; Csontos 1995) has largely
been explained by lithospheric escape tectonics triggered
by the N-S squeezing of these terranes between the conver-
gent Northern Europe and Africa and their movement to-
wards the domain under eastward extension (Ratschbacher
et al. 1991; Sperner et al. 2002). This eastward-transposed
convergence was driven mainly by south-eastward sub-
duction roll-back near the Western margin of the East Eu-
ropean Plate in front of the ALCAPA and Tisia blocks
(Royden 1993; Seghedi et al. 1998; Wortel & Spakman
2000). Another effect of the convergence was the deforma-
tion of the accretionary prism along the subduction bound-
ary to form a typical thrust-and-fold belt, namely the
Carpathian orogenic arc. Eastward progression of deforma-
Table 1: Continued from the previous pages.
tion along the thrust-and-fold system has been reported
(Jiříček 1979; Royden et al. 1982; Csontos et al. 1992).
Due to subduction roll-back, extensional tectonics domi-
nated the domain behind the compressional front, including
the formation of an extensive back-arc type basin system (the
Pannonian Basin with a number of related marginal basins
and the Transylvanian Basin) (Royden 1988; Huismans et al.
2001) separated by elevated horst-blocks (Apuseni Mts,
Mecsek, Transdanubian Central Range, etc.). Reviews of the
geodynamic evolution and magmatism of the CPR system
are given by Csontos (1995), Nemčok et al. (1998), Konečný
et al. (2002a) and Seghedi et al. (1998, 2004a,b).
Composition and origin of Neogene-Quaternary
magmatism in the Carpathian-Pannonian Region
Various magmatic rocks occur in the CPR, including
types from both the calc-alkaline and alkaline series. Tran-
sitional types, such as shoshonitic and high-K calc-alka-
line rocks, are also present, together with minor amounts
of ultrapotassic rocks. The following chemical types of
rocks are distinguished into separate groups: (1) felsic
calc-alkaline, (2) intermediate calc-alkaline, (3) mafic calc-
alkaline, (4) shoshonitic and K-trachytic, (5) ultrapotassic
and (6) mafic alkaline (Fig. 3). A special case of adakite-like
intermediate calc-alkaline volcanism will also be consid-
ered, without being shown separately in the figures.
Felsic calc-alkaline volcanic formations
spread throughout the CPR. They mostly consist of
volcaniclastic rocks (rhyolitic to dacitic welded and/or
GEOCHRONOLOGY OF NEOGENE MAGMATISM IN THE CARPATHIAN ARC
Table 2: Timing of volcanic activity in the Carpathian arc, showing age intervals for different rock type groups and volcanic areas.
Continued on the next page.
PÉCSKAY et al.
non-welded ash-flow tuffs, fallout tuffs and their reworked
counterparts) and a minor amount of extrusive rocks
(rhyolite to dacite domes and dome/flow complexes). Ow-
ing to their wide dispersion over very large areas, the
felsic explosive products are present throughout most of
the Pannonian and Transylvanian Basins, as well as at
their margins. Their thickness and characteristics vary
strongly from one area to another. Conventionally, in
Fig. 1 we consider only felsic tuff complexes at least 10 m
thick. The cardinal problem is to establish the volcanic
source areas of these felsic explosive products. Some of
them have been tentatively identified (e.g. Szakács et al.
1998; Fülöp 2003), but their location is still mostly un-
known. The eruptive centers were probably located in the
intra-Carpathian area and to a lesser extent along the
Carpathian volcanic arc itself.
Felsic calc-alkaline volcanism was spatially associated
with early extension and basin formation in the intra-
Carpathian area (e.g. Pécskay et al. 1995a). Their Sr, Nd,
and Pb isotopic compositions (Salters et al. 1988; Fülöp
& Kovacs 2003; Seghedi et al. 2004a) indicate a domi-
nant crustal component. Crustal anatexis was most prob-
ably induced by extension-related diapiric uprise of the
asthenospheric mantle associated with the emplacement of
mantle-derived basaltic magmas at the base of a thick con-
Table 2: Continued from the previous page.
tinental crust (e.g. Harangi 2001a; Konečný et al. 2002a).
Downes (1996) and Seghedi et al. (1998) have proposed
an alternative model involving lithospheric delamination,
bringing hot asthenospheric material into direct contact
with crustal material. Whatever the origin, the presence of
felsic calc-alkaline volcanic formations implies extension
affecting relatively thick continental crust and related dia-
piric uprise of asthenospheric mantle.
Intermediate calc-alkaline volcanic formations
present along the whole Carpathian magmatic arc and are
widespread in the intra-Carpathian region too. The volcanic
edifices are monogenetic and composite stratovolcanoes, ef-
fusive domes, lava flows, as well as subvolcanic intrusive
complexes. According to their distribution in the Carpathian
orogenic arc, two main categories have been distinguished
by Lexa et al. (1993) and Lexa & Konečný (1998): (1) areally
distributed volcanic formations in the intra-Carpathian area
considered as emplaced in back-arc basins; (2) roughly lin-
early distributed volcanic formations along the internal side
of the Carpathian orogenic arc. However, in places it is diffi-
cult to distinguish between these two categories, especially
where a well-defined volcanic area, such as the Tokaj area,
extends from near the “arc” zone to well inside the “back-
arc” region. Some volcanic areas, such as the Central
Slovakia Volcanic Field, Börzsöny, Cserhát, Mátra, Apuseni
GEOCHRONOLOGY OF NEOGENE MAGMATISM IN THE CARPATHIAN ARC
Fig. 3. SiO
O vs. Age (Ma) for Western, Central, Eastern segments, showing the main chemical types of rocks which characterize the
CPR magmatism. The mafic calc-alkaline rocks have been separated, and included in the intermediate calc-alkaline group, as well as differentiated
felsic products considered to derive from this group. The intrusive roks have been not separated. Geochemical data from Embey-Isztin et al.
(1993); Dobosi et al. (1995); Downes et al. (1995a,b); Konečný et al. (1995); Kaličiak & Žec (1995); Žec (1995); Harangi et al. (1995a,b, 2001)
Harangi (2001b), Mason et al. (1996); Seghedi et al. (1995, 2001, 2004a,b); Kovacs (2002); Fülöp & Kovacs (2003); Ro u et al. (2001, 2004).
Age data according to this work and included references. Figure SiO
vs. age (Ma) is simplified after the fig. 3 of Seghedi et al. (2005a). Abbrevi-
ations: Ap – magmatic rock from Intracarpathian Apuseni area; EC – magmatic rocks from East Carpathians arc area.
Mountains and some areas with buried volcanic formations,
are clearly disconnected from the Carpathian arc s.s. Never-
theless, despite these uncertainties, we are able to clearly
identify a relatively continuous volcanic arc along the north-
ern and eastern margin of the ALCAPA and Tisia microplates
(Fig. 1). This volcanic arc is situated close to the Carpathian
orogenic arc and displays a pronounced segmentation, which
roughly corresponds to the boundaries of different plate or
lithospheric blocks (Seghedi et al. 1998, 2004a; Konečný et
The areally distributed andesitic volcanism has been in-
terpreted as belonging to an advanced stage of back-arc
PÉCSKAY et al.
extension in the intra-Carpathian area (Lexa & Konečný
1998). Volcanic formations include intermediate to basaltic
andesites with substantial occurrences of subvolcanic intru-
sive rocks and differentiated rocks with rare late-stage rhyo-
lites. They are mostly of the medium- to high-K type,
showing compositional features comparable to andesites of
active continental margins (Lexa & Konečný 1998). Trace el-
ement distribution and Sr, Nd, Pb and O isotopic composi-
tions (Salters et al. 1988; Downes et al. 1995a; Ro u et al.
2001) support a primary basaltic magma source in the en-
riched asthenosphere (or lithosphere in the case of adakite-
like rocks from Apuseni Mountains), with subsequent
contamination by crustal materials. Further evolution of mag-
mas involved both high- and low-pressure fractionation,
assimilation and mixing (Lexa et al. 1998a,b). Magma gen-
eration was initiated by decompression partial melting of the
enriched asthenosphere and/or lithosphere, due to asthenos-
phere upwelling and/or related lithosphere delamination
(Lexa & Konečný 1998; Ro u et al. 2001). The areally dis-
tributed andesite volcanism (including adakite-like litholo-
gies) implies an advanced stage of back-arc extension that
affected progressively thinning crust, together with advanced
diapiric uprise of asthenospheric mantle, which was affected
by a preceding stage of subduction responsible for enrich-
ment including volatile components.
The andesite volcanic formations situated along the
Carpathian arc are dominated by basaltic andesites and
andesites with subordinate differentiated rocks and/or
subvolcanic intrusions. They are mostly of medium-K type,
similar to andesites of evolved island arcs and continental
arcs. Their geochemical characteristics and spatial distribu-
tion were controlled indirectly by subduction (Mason et al.
1996; Seghedi et al. 1998, 2001, 2004a, 2005a; Kovacs
2001, 2002). Nemčok et al. (1998) and Mason et al. (1998)
argued that volcanic formations of this type may be gener-
ated by detachment of the subducting lithospheric slab.
This “arc-type” andesite volcanism implies (1) subduction
roll-back processs, (2) breakoff or delamination processes,
(3) the duration at which subducting lithosphere may have
reached the magma generation window and/or the time of
detachment of the lithospheric slab.
are present in very small volumes
and occur in the western part of the CPR (Poultidis &
Scharbert 1986; Pamić & Pécskay 1994, 1996; Pamić et al.
1995), as a single occurrence in the Apuseni Mts (Savu
1994; Ro u et al. 2001), and associated with adakite like
rocks in South Harghita (Seghedi et al. 2004a). Shoshonit-
ic/high-K andesites have also been described in Moravia
(Přichystal 1998). Their generation is still debated by pe-
trologists (e.g. Mason et al. 1998; Ro u et al. 2001). K-tra-
chytic and ultrapotassic rocks
have been found mainly
in the south-western corner of the CPR, except the K-tra-
chytic occurrences reached by the boreholes in the Little
Hungarian Plain (Harangi et al. 1995b) (Fig. 1). A lithos-
pheric origin for these magmas is generally accepted
(Harangi et al. 1995b).
Alkalic volcanic formations
include nepheline basa-
nites, alkali basalts and their differentiated counterparts
such as nepheline tephrites, trachybasalts, trachyandesites
and hawaiites (Embey-Isztin et al. 1993; Dobosi et al. 1995;
Downes et al. 1995; Harangi et al. 1995a). They are spread
over most of the western CPR as isolated clusters of out-
crops organized in more or less extended monogenetic vol-
canic fields of maars, diatremes, tuff cones, cinder/spatter
cones and lava flows. These occurrences are located in the
back-arc setting; however, one example (Per ani Mts, Ro-
mania) is situated very close to the Carpathian volcanic arc
s.s. Petrological aspects of the alkalic volcanic formations
were recently evaluated by Embey-Isztin et al. (1993),
Dobosi et al. (1995), Downes et al. (1995b), Harangi et al.
(1995), Harangi (2001b) and Seghedi et al. (2004b). Alkali
basalts and nepheline basanites are products of decompres-
sion partial melting of depleted asthenospheric mantle.
Magma composition was controlled mostly by the degree
of partial melting, with less important fractionation pro-
cesses leading to trachytic and potassic compositions. Al-
kali basalt volcanism implies (1) an extension environment,
(2) a local asthenospheric uprise with a vertical displace-
ment able to generate alkali basalt magmas, and (3) an as-
thenosphere source that was not affected or slightly affected
by subduction processes.
Selection criteria and methodology
There are several approaches to dating volcanic rocks
and/or formations; however, no single one of them is de-
pendable enough for as to disregard the other’s. Only an
internally consistent set of data obtained by different
methods gives us a trustworthy age assignment. However,
such an ideal situation cannot always be achieved and the
possibility of error in the age assignment thus increases. In
discussion of individual volcanic areas we shall indicate
those ages that are uncertain due to poor quality of data,
insufficient data or controversial results. With the excep-
tion of simple and solitary magmatic bodies, like isolated
intrusions, extrusive domes, lava flows and tuff horizons, a
paleovolcanic reconstruction and identification of litho-
stratigraphic units are the essential first steps. Without
these steps we would not know what is actually being
dated (unknown relationship of the dated sample to other
rocks in the area) and we would not be able to confront the
results of individual age determinations. Paleovolcanic re-
construction and definition of lithostratigraphic units
open the way to the next important step – establishment
of the succession using cross-cutting and/or superposition
relationship of lithostratigraphic units. The age assign-
ment of lithostratigraphic units based on other methods
should always respect the established succession. It is im-
portant to note, that paleovolcanic reconstruction and
definition of lithostratigraphic units has not been carried
out in all the volcanic areas we are discussing in this pa-
per – where absent, the succession is not well defined or
it is based solely on the results of K-Ar dating. As bios-
tratigraphic data are often scarce or absent, our essential
approach to the age assignment of volcanic rocks and
GEOCHRONOLOGY OF NEOGENE MAGMATISM IN THE CARPATHIAN ARC
units is K/Ar dating, carried out in the laboratory of the In-
stitute of Nuclear Research of the Hungarian Academy of
Sciences in Debrecen. During the years 1995—2002 all to-
gether 1000 samples have been dated. Published data
have been utilized, considering reasonable quality regard-
ing the geological context (mostly whole rock K/Ar data
and some FT datings, especially in Slovakia). Results of
dating on individual samples may not always be indica-
tive of the age of the rock. The “isotopic clock” might be
affected by younger processes, such as alteration, loss or
incorporation of excess radiogenic argon, etc. Several
ways have been used to eliminate possible errors in the
age assignment of rocks. First of all, we have always se-
lected fresh samples not affected by weathering or alter-
ation. Also we do not generally depend on single sample
age determination. A consistent set of results diminishes
the possibility of error in the age assignment. In the case
of controversial results we have eventually dated various
gravity and magnetic fractions of the samples and con-
structed isochrons to eliminate the influence of radiogenic
argon loss or excess.
Where available, radiometric dating is supplemented by
biostratigraphic data on underlying, interbedded and/or
overlaying sedimentary rocks. While biostratigraphic data
for the early Middle Miocene, based on nannoplankton
zonation, are dependable, data for younger stages based
on faunal assemblages sensitive to environmental (salin-
ity) changes in the Paratethys sea are less dependable (also
owing to a lack of good regional correlation). The same
applies to palynology, based on climatic changes. Bios-
tratigraphic data are correlated with radiometric data using
the time-scale of Vass & Balogh (1989) and Berggren et
al. (1995). In some areas we are also able to use the re-
sults of paleomagnetic measurements. Remanent mag-
netic polarities of rocks contribute to the division into
lithostratigraphic units, however, designation to indi-
vidual subchrons is usually difficult for several reasons:
1) incomplete record of the reversals succession in volca-
nic formations with long lasting breaks in activity and
erosion; 2) in some areas poor knowledge of succession of
sampled volcanic rocks; 3) confidence limits of K/Ar ages
are sometimes larger than the duration of a particular
subchron. However, in several situations, magnetic polar-
ity time scale combined with K/Ar ages has refined timing
and duration of volcanic activity beyond the resolution of
radiometric data alone (Ro u et al. 1997; Panaiotu et al.
2004). Balla (1984) suggested and Márton & Márton
(1996) and Panaiotu (1999) proved extensive rotations of
crustal blocks (ALCAPA and Tisia) during Early and
Middle Miocene times. So the extent of the clockwise and
counterclockwise rotations, respectively, of the lithospheric
blocks can be converted into relative age assignments.
Individual rocks samples were crushed and sieved to
separate the fraction 250—500 m for Ar analysis. It was
degassed by high frequency induction heating, the usual
getter materials (titanium sponge, CaO, SAES getter and
cold traps) being used to clean argon. A
Ar spike was in-
troduced to the system from a gas pipette before the degas-
sing started. Cleaned argon was directly introduced into
the mass-spectrometer. The mass spectrometer was the
magnetic sector type of 150 mm radius and 90º deflection.
It was operated in a static mode. Recording and evaluation
of the Ar spectra was controlled by a microcomputer. To
determine potassium content 0.1 g of pulverized samples
were digested in HF with addition of sulphuric and per-
chloric acids. The digested sample was dissolved in
100 ml 0.25 mol/l HCl. After a subsequent fivefold dilu-
tion 100 ppm Na and 100 ppm Li were added as a buffer
and internal standard. K concentrations were measured by
the digitized flame photometer OE-85 manufactured in
Hungary. The inter-laboratory standards Asia 1/65, LP-6,
HD-B1, and GL-O as well as atmospheric Ar were used to
control the measurements. Details of the instruments, ap-
plied methods, and calibration results have been pub-
lished by Balogh (1985) and Odin et al. (1982).
Space-time evolution of magmatism in the
In this paper we consider the large-scale space distribu-
tion of the volcanics according to the geographical units as
in Fig. 2, which are not related to any specific geotectonic
model. The divisions are presented for the Carpathians (Al-
pine folded thrust belt) and intra-Carpathian area (encom-
passed by the sygmoidal Carpathian arc) from the West
toward the East. The below discussed volcanic areas are
listed in Figs. 1 and 2 and summarizing information on time
intervals of volcanic activity is given in Tables 1 (intra-
Carpathian area) and 2 (Carpathian arc s.s.), including data
Fig. 2 provides a synopsis of the K-Ar ages of magmatic
rocks from the CPR (see also Fig. 1). The evolution of
each individual volcanic area is described on the basis of
time intervals presented in Tables 1 and 2. Fig. 2 shows
mafic calc-alkaline rocks (important for the magmatic evo-
lution of some areas) that cannot be shown on Fig. 1, due
to their small volume. In Fig. 1 we have also not separated
intrusive rocks from volcanic ones. Due to the lack of ra-
diometric ages, in some cases only biostratigraphic data
have been used for chronological discussion (Tables 1, 2).
The paleomagnetic method contributed to the refinement
of age estimation by applying correlations through mag-
netic polarities and marker horizons related to the rotation
of microplates (Fig. 4).
All the data used, both analytical (radiometric, paleo-
magnetic, geochemical) and geological (volcanological,
paleontological), support the simplified geographical di-
vision used in this paper, as expressing significant differ-
ences in the evolution of the CPR. This enables us to
distinguish three main segments, conventionally shown
on Fig. 4: the Western, Central and Eastern segments,
which show progressively younger timing of subduction
roll-back and back-arc extension: 21—11 Ma, 16—9 Ma,
14—0 Ma, respectively. Below we present in a greater de-
tail the pattern in the temporal distribution of magmatism
in these three segments. Numbers in brackets indicate rel-
evant volcanic areas on Figs. 1 and 2.
PÉCSKAY et al.
Western segment (1—20, 24, 25)
The Western segment is characterized by the widest extent
and greatest variety of magmatism in the intra-Carpathian
area, and also by the oldest volcanic activity in the whole
CPR. Volcanic formations reached about one thousand
meters in thickness in the Pannonian Basin. The Neogene
volcanic products extend over the intra-Carpathian area in a
great volume and thickness (1—20), while occurrences in the
Carpathian arc are sporadic (24, 25). The following relation-
ship can be observed between the distribution, volume of
volcanic rocks and their corresponding age interval:
At 23—21 Ma the oldest calc-alkaline magmatic activ-
ity, characterized by relatively small volumes, took place in
the southernmost part of the segment, at the southern margin of
the Pannonian Basin along the Drava-Sava fault system (1).
This magmatism was explained as related to slab break-off due
to the convergence between Apulia and Tisia (Pamić & Balen
2001). So we do not consider this magmatic activity as related
to the evolution of the Carpathian-Pannonian system.
From 21 to 17 Ma a felsic calc-alkaline volcanic activ-
ity occurred in the south-central part of the segment. This
volcanism was mostly of a highly explosive nature giving
rise to voluminous tuff horizons (3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12).
Rare shoshonitic and intermediate calc-alkaline activity
took place in the southern part of the Pannonian Basin (3).
They have been interpreted as related to the same slab
break-off as the calc-alkaline magmatic activity men-
tioned above (Pamić et al. 2002).
From 17 to 11 Ma intermediate to felsic calc-alka-
line volcanic activity covered most of the intra-
Carpathian area with its voluminous products, showing
a northward age progression (1—20). This magmatism
displays an important local petrological complexity in
the western corner of the intra-Carpathians, consisting
of simultaneous activity of felsic and intermediate calc-
alkaline, shoshonitic, K-trachytic and ultrapotassic vol-
canic rocks during the interval 17.5—15.5 Ma (1, 2, 3, 6).
During the interval 13.5—11 Ma, sporadic high-K (to slightly
shoshonitic) andesite activity occurred in the westernmost
segment of the Carpathian volcanic arc s.s. in eastern
Moravia and the Pieniny areas (24, 25).
Between 12 and 8 Ma intermediate calc-alkaline volca-
nic activity diminished and finally ceased (3, 15, 16 and 20).
In certain areas calc-alkaline magmatism ended with the
eruption of mafic magmas (1, 10, 15, 16 and 20). In the
western part of the segment, K-trachytic and shoshonitic
volcanism was also active (1, 6), as well as the first erup-
tion of alkali basalt and ultrapotassic lavas, post-dating
the calc-alkaline activity (2, 6, 7).
From 8 to 0.01? Ma only alkali basalt and rare
ultrapotassic volcanic activity took place, forming mono-
genetic volcanic fields (5, 6, 11) as well as sporadic iso-
lated occurrences (2, 7, 15).
Fig. 4. Summary of radiometric ages of the rock types groups and the timing of rotations (shaded areas), based on paleomagnetic measurements
in the Western, Central and Eastern segments. The bar width suggests relative volume of magmatic products. Back-arc and arc geotectonic setting
are distinguished. Rock types: FCA – felsic calc-alkaline, ICA – intermediate calc-alkaline, MCA – mafic calc-alkaline, S + T – shoshonitic
and trachytic, UK – ultrapotassic, AB – alkali basalts. Inserted scheme corresponding to the Fig. 1 shows extent of the segments.
GEOCHRONOLOGY OF NEOGENE MAGMATISM IN THE CARPATHIAN ARC
Central segment (21, 22, 26—34)
The Central segment is characterized by mostly calc-al-
kaline magmatism and by the shift of volcanism to the
Carpathian arc and the intra-montane basins of the
Apuseni Mountains. Volcanic formations in the
Carpathian arc are extensive and voluminous, and show a
systematic age progression towards the suture zone. Vol-
canic activity was more or less contemporaneous along
the arc; however, its peak migrated gradually from the
northwest to the southeast. Ages of the volcanic forma-
tions in the intra-Carpathian area overlap with ages of vol-
canic rocks in the Carpathian arc (26, 30—33). In the
intra-Carpathian area volcanism took place only in Banat
and the Apuseni Mountains, showing a longer interval in
the south-easternmost parts. The following relationship
between the distribution, volume of volcanic rocks and
their corresponding age interval has been observed:
The oldest volcanism in the segment (15.5—14.5 Ma)
is represented by extensive and voluminous rhyodacite
tuffs, rhyolite ignimbrites and reworked tuffs (locally
named Hrabovec, Novoselica, and Dej tuffs) with sources in
the Carpathians (Gutâi Mountains (33)), but also probable
sources in the intra-Carpathian northern Trans-Tisza area (31).
At 14.5—9 Ma alternating andesite, dacite and rhyo-
lite volcanic activity took place in the internal part of
the Carpathian arc and neighbouring intra-Carpathian
basins (26, 30—33), sometimes terminating with sporadic
mafic volcanism (26, 33). The morphologically conspicu-
ous alignment of composite andesitic volcanoes Vihorlat—
Gutin—Gutâi (28, 29 and 33) (with minor differentiated
rocks) yields ages in the interval 12.5—9 Ma. However,
older rocks dominate in the northwest (28), while younger
rocks dominate in the southeast (33).
From 14.9 to 9 Ma intermediate andesite volcanic ac-
tivity took place in the intra-Carpathian area of the
Apuseni Mountains (22), terminating with eruption of in-
termediate adakite-like calc-alkaline products and spo-
radic, slightly younger (7.8—7.4 Ma) basic magmas.
During 11.9—8.3 Ma basalt to rhyolite (diorite to grano-
diorite porphyry) intrusions characterize the ible -Toroiaga-
Rodna-Bârgău alignment (34), overlapping with the ages of
the intrusive rocks in the Gutâi Mountains (33) to the north-
west and extending southward below the overlying volcanic
successions of Călimani and Gurghiu (35, 36).
Between 2.5 and 1.5 Ma sporadic shoshonites were
erupted at the southern edge of the Apuseni Mountains (22)
and alkali basalt activity took place in the intra-Carpathian
Banat area (21).
Eastern segment (35—39)
The Eastern segment shows the youngest, mostly inter-
mediate calc-alkaline magmatic activity related to the
Carpathian arc. This is represented by the conspicuous
chain of andesite composite volcanoes of the Călimani—
Gurghiu—Harghita (CGH) mountain range, showing a
rapid age progression from north to south (Rădulescu et al.
1972; Peltz et al. 1987; Pécskay et al. 1995b). The follow-
ing relationship can be determined between distribution,
volume of volcanic rocks and ages:
At 10—0.03 Ma the CGH volcanic chain (35—38) was
generated, characterized by dominantly intermediate calc-
alkaline volcanism with minor basalts and differentiated
rocks. Southward progression of volcanic activity is re-
corded in overlapping ages of andesite stratovolcanoes:
Călimani (35) from 10.1 to 6.7 Ma, Gurghiu (36) from
9.0 to 5.8 Ma, Northern Harghita (37) between 6.3 and
3.9 Ma and Southern Harghita (38) between 4.6 and
1.5 Ma. The Ciomadul dome/flow complex at the south-
ern end of the chain yields ages of 1.0—0.03 Ma.
Between 2.2 and 0.03 Ma volcanic activity at the
southern end of the CGH chain showed one of the most
complex petrological features in the CPR. Three different
magma types were erupted simultaneously very close to
each other: intermediate calc-alkaline showing adakite-
like features, shoshonitic and alkali basaltic.
As magmatic activity is closely related to geotectonic
processes, the complex magmatic evolution of the CPR im-
plies an equally complex geotectonic evolution. As mag-
matic activity and geotectonic phenomena are related via
processes of magma generation, the space-time distribution
of magmatism places severe constraints on the geotectonic
evolution. In addition to Figs. 1 and 2, the space-time distri-
bution of volcanic formations defining the magmatic evo-
lution of the CPR is summarized within the three major
segments (Western, Central and Eastern) in Fig. 4 and illus-
trated in Fig. 5, where a schematic reconstruction of the vol-
canic activity in a series of 2 Ma intervals is reported.
The Neogene to Quaternary geodynamic evolution for
the whole area was determined by the interplay between
south-westward subduction and its compensation by back-
arc extension and related asthenospheric mantle uprise
(e.g. Huismans et al. 2001). Both of these processes have
been recorded by the relevant volcanic activity. While the
subduction-related volcanism appeared after the sub-
ducted slab reached the depth of magma generation win-
dow around 120—150 km (e.g. Gill 1981; Sekine & Willey
1982), the extension-related volcanism mainly reflects the
uprise of asthenospheric mantle. However, we also need to
take into account that subduction beneath the CPR also
implies roll-back and slab breakoff processes (e.g. Csontos
1995; Seghedi et al. 1998; Nemčok et al. 1998). If we
analyse the magmatic evolution of the three major geo-
graphical segments of the CPR (Figs. 4, 5) the following
picture can be depicted:
In the Western segment
the felsic and intermediate
calc-alkaline volcanism was related to a back-arc setting,
which implies asthenospheric mantle uprise. This process
is related to subduction started at the beginning of Early
Miocene ( ~ 21 Ma). Volcanic activity reached its parox-
ysm at 17—12 Ma, waning at ~ 8 Ma. Between 21 Ma and
11.5 Ma, the felsic and intermediate calc-alkaline volca-
nic activities were contemporaneous. From a geodynamic
Fig. 5. Evolutionary scheme of the Neogene-Quaternary volcanism in the Carpathian-Pannonian Region.
GEOCHRONOLOGY OF NEOGENE MAGMATISM IN THE CARPATHIAN ARC
point of view, the sporadic andesitic magmatism in the
Carpathian arc (13—11 Ma) is poorly understood. This tim-
ing corresponds to the termination of subduction (and slab
detachment?) as recorded by the end of inversion of the
outer flysch basin (e.g. Oszcypko 1998; Konečný et al.
2002; Seghedi et al. 2004a).
In the Central segment
the back-arc felsic and interme-
diate calc-alkaline volcanism implies that asthenospheric
mantle uprise and related subduction roll-back, which started
at ~ 15.5 Ma, reached a maximum intensity at 14—11 Ma and
finished around 9 Ma. A striking feature of this segment is
that voluminous (caldera-type?) felsic volcanic activity
took place between 15 and 14 Ma (Pécskay et al. 2001;
Fülöp 2003), the products of which accumulated in the
north-eastern Pannonian Basin and the Transcarpathian Ba-
sin) and Transylvanian Basin. Activity in the Apuseni area,
characterized by typical calc-alkaline to adakite-like calc-
alkaline magmas, developed during Middle Miocene times
(14 Ma), reaching a maximum intensity between 13 and
10 Ma and finishing between 8 and 7 Ma. This magmatic
activity was not connected with the contemporaneous roll-
back processes and generation of magmas of the arc area.
Since the Apuseni magmatism was generated in an exten-
sional regime (Royden 1988; Csontos & Nagymarosy
1998; Ciulavu 1999), lithospheric decompressional melt-
ing during eastward translation and clockwise rotation of
the Tisia intra-Carpathian block has been invoked by
Seghedi et al. (1998) and Ro u et al. (2001). In the southern
part of the Apuseni area, the presence of ~ 2.5 Ma alkalic
basalts and ~ 1.5 Ma shoshonites suggests a hot mantle up-
welling in a local extensional environment (Seghedi et al.
1998, 2004a; Ro u et al. 2001).
In the Eastern segment,
the magmatic activity was domi-
nated by intermediate calc-alkaline volcanic rocks. The
magmatism is clearly post-collisional since it developed af-
ter the main Sarmatian collision event (Săndulescu 1984;
Ma enco 1997). The age progression of volcanic activity
along this segment is obvious (Fig. 2) and is explained by
roll-back and simultaneous along-arc breakoff processes
(Mason et al. 1998; Seghedi et al. 1998). In the southern-
most part of the segment magmas of different composition
(adakite-like calc-alkaline, shoshonitic and alkali basaltic)
were generated between 2 and 0.03 Ma. Breakoff and tear-
ing of the slab at shallow levels, followed by asthenosphere
uprise, have been suggested (Seghedi et al. 2004a).
Accordingly, the Tertiary evolution of volcanic activity
of the Carpathian arc and intra-Carpathian area controlled
by geotectonic evolution was not contemporaneous, but
shows a progression from West to East in definable seg-
ments (Konečný et al. 2002; Seghedi et al. 2004a). Marked
southward progression of volcanic activity within the East-
cannot be explained successfully by the vari-
able onset of subduction, but it rather reflects a southward
progression of the slab tear-off (Wortel & Spakman 2000).
Such model implies that the required magma generation
depth was reached only during the process of slab detach-
ment (Downes 1996; Nemčok et al. 1998). Detachment-
driven magma generation would also explain a rather
short duration of magmatic activity. The detachment-driven
magma generation might indeed be a more common process
than previously thought, as a short duration of volcanic ac-
tivity is characteristic also for the western segment and a
part of the north-eastern segment of the volcanic arc s.s.
On the basis of our data, the time that elapsed between
the onset of volcanic activity in the back-arc region and
that in the volcanic arc reflects the time required for the sub-
ducting slab to achieve a roll-back induced vertical posi-
tion. Involvement of the detachment process in magma
generation would decrease the estimate of the subduction
rate. The Carpathian volcanic arc is situated mostly rather
close to the trace of the related subduction zone (Fig. 1), in-
dicating that magma generation window was reached, when
the subduction zone was almost vertical. The process of
slab verticalization is documented in the Central segment,
where successive volcanic alignments show a pronounced
migration of volcanic activity towards the subduction zone
during Sarmatian time (13.5—11 Ma) (Lexa & Kaličiak
2000; Pécskay et al. 2001; Seghedi et al. 2001). Volcanic
activity in individual volcanic areas of the arc was coeval
with the latest time of thrusting in front of the accretion
prism at that segment, indicating that during volcanism the
subduction zone was almost vertical and was in its final
stage of activity.
Termination of subduction and related back-arc exten-
sion was immediately reflected in a change of volcanic ac-
tivity. Voluminous calc-alkaline magmas were replaced
by sporadic alkaline magmas. Apparently the change in
geodynamic processes also radically changed the pattern
of asthenospheric mantle flow as since that time diapiric
uprise in the mantle was tapping depleted mantle material.
The main periods of block rotations proved by paleo-
magnetic measurements (shaded areas on Fig. 4), clearly
indicate that the sense, amplitude and duration of lithos-
pheric movements are variable within each segment.
These features suggest the eastward progression of defor-
mation along the thrust-and-fold system owing to progres-
sion in interaction between the upper and lower plates
(Panaiotu 1998; Márton & Fodor 2003).
The first period of rotation (18—14 Ma in the Western seg-
ment and 15—12 Ma in the Central segment) was clearly re-
lated to subduction (Panaiotu 1998; Márton & Fodor
2003). The sense, amplitude age and duration of block rota-
tions were variable for each segment. However the intensity
and volume of magmatic activity appear to be correlated in
time with periods of block rotations (Fig. 4). During the
volcanic activity, rotations affected only the Western and
Central segments. Rotation has been detected only on rocks
of the first period of volcanism in more internal areas with
respect to the subduction front. The connection between
block rotations and volcanism suggests a different
mechanism for magmagenesis within each individual
segment as supported by the geochemical data (Seghedi
et al. 2004a, 2005a). The youngest phase of rotation in the
Transdanubian Central Range area (5) was associated with
increasing compression/inversion in the Pannonian Basin
and adjacent areas (Márton & Fodor 2003). Alkali basalts of
the Transdanubian Central Range are inside the area af-
fected by this rotation or at its margins.
PÉCSKAY et al.
Neogene to Quaternary volcanism in the Carpathian-
Pannonian Region was related to the youngest evolutionary
stage of the Carpathian arc and intra-Carpathian area, with sub-
duction of the crust underlying former outer flysch basins as
the main driving mechanism. Volcanic activity took place in
the time interval 21 to 0.01 Ma, showing a pronounced migra-
tion in time from West to East. According to the compositional
characteristics, spatial distribution and relationship to tectonic
phenomena, the volcanic formations can be divided into three
segments, each one with its own timing: (1) a Western seg-
characterized by areally distributed felsic calc-alkaline
volcanic formations related to initial stages of back-arc exten-
sion active between 21 and 12 Ma and by areally distributed
intermediate calc-alkaline volcanic formations related to ad-
vanced stages of back-arc extension between 19 and 8 Ma,
(2) a Central segment where felsic volcanic activity was gener-
ated between 15 and 11 Ma, as well as the main intermediate
calc-alkaline activity between 15 and 9 Ma, both in the
Carpathian arc and in the intra-Carpathians (Apuseni Mts), and
(3) an Eastern segment generated between 10 to 0.3 Ma. Al-
kali basaltic volcanism generally post-dated the calc-alkaline
one, erupting between 12 and 0.1 Ma in the west, except for
the southern part of the East Carpathians, where they were con-
temporaneous, between 2.5 and 0.5 Ma. Comparison of the du-
ration of volcanic activity within different areas of CPR shows
that both calc-alkaline and alkaline basaltic volcanic activities
were longer-lasting in the back-arc region than in the arc re-
gion. The very short-lived volcanic activity in most of the seg-
ments of the arc can be interpreted as an indication of either a
limited width of the subducted crust (probably not more than
200 km), or a detachment of the sinking slab from the platform
margin at the time of volcanic activity. According to Fig. 4:
(1) a decreasing role of the back-arc extension related felsic
and intermediate calc-alkaline volcanism and (2) an increasing
role of the slab detachment driven intermediate calc-alkaline
volcanism with time from the West towards the East, can be
We give a big hug and kiss to Hilary
Downes, who spent Christmas and New Year working on
the first draft of this paper, displaying a hitherto unsus-
pected ability to translate from Slovak into English! The
Hungarian National Scientific Research Fund (OTKA) num-
ber M41434, sponsored part of the radiometric datings. The
investigations were performed according to the program of
bilateral scientific cooperation between the Hungarian Acad-
emy of Sciences and Romanian Academy (Institute of
Geodynamics) and Polish Academy of Sciences. A.Sz. ben-
efited from a Domus Hungarica Scientiorum et Artium grant
during part of his contribution to this paper. We thank Or-
lando Vaselli and Dionýz Vass for their constructive reviews.
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