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North Aegean sedimentary basin evolution during the Late

Eocene to Early Oligocene based on sedimentological studies

on Lemnos Island (NE Greece)



University of Patras, Department of Geology, 26500 Patras, Greece;;;;

(Manuscript received April 3, 2006; accepted in revised form March 15, 2007)

Abstract: From the Late Eocene to Early  Oligocene (NP18—NP21), submarine fan deposits and shelf deposits were
accumulated on Lemnos Island, Greece. These sediments, with shelf deposits overlying the submarine fans, were deposited
in a broad basin, which, in this time interval was gradually restricted in space. Colour, texture, thickness, grain size and
sedimentary structures were used for the detailed sedimentological analysis of the turbidite deposits, in order to identify the
sub-environments and the processes which control the growth of the submarine fan. This analysis demonstrates the
classification of the sediments as a sand-rich submarine fan, which was constructed under the simultaneous interaction of
progradation and aggradation and shows a main paleocurrent direction from SSW to NNE. The flow types that control the
depositional processes of the submarine fans were grain flows, debris flows and low, medium- and high-density turbidity
currents. The evolution of depositional environments outlined above indicates a progressive relative sea-level fall, and in
relation to the lowstand conditions, during this time space (NP18—NP21), with no significant sea-level fluctuations, it could
establish a theory that the studied area was mostly influenced by regional tectonic activity and less by eustatic sea-level changes.

Key words: Lemnos Island, sand-rich, submarine fan, currents, turbidites.


An increasing emphasis in the oil industry on the explora-
tion for turbidite-hosted reservoirs has been the driving
force behind the growing research on turbidite systems
(e.g. Shanmugan & Moiola 1991; Hickson & Lowe 2002).
Outcrop studies of turbidite deposits allow a precise docu-
mentation of their internal structures, thicknesses, grain-
size, sorting and composition. Turbidite deposits vary in
facies architecture and geometry as a result of variations in
the delivery system, grain-size availability, slope profile,
and basin floor topography (e.g. Bouma 1962; Mutti &
Ricci Lucchi 1972; Piper & Stow 1991; Reading &
Richards 1994; Galloway 1998; Mulder & Alexander
2001). A great opportunity to examine some of the at-
tributes mentioned above is offered by the Upper Eocene
to Lower Oligocene turbidite deposits on Lemnos Island,
NE Greece. They consist of conglomerates, sandstones and
mudstones. These deposits underlie Lower Oligocene
shelf deposits. The primary aim of this paper is the de-
tailed description of the deep-water deposits in the Lemnos
Basin, the recognition of the depositional processes and the
sub-environments of deposition and reconstruction of the
paleogeographical evolution of Lemnos Island.

Geological setting

The study area is located in the NE Aegean (Fig. 1A).

The sedimentological evolution of the island of Lemnos

is based on the geological mapping that was carried out
by Roussos (1982) (Fig. 1B). The oldest sediments, Late
Eocene to Early Oligocene in age, consist of conglomer-
ates, sandstones and claystones and have been character-
ized as deep water in origin (Units 1 to 3 in Fig. 1B).
Above them, during Early Oligocene, shelf deposits have
been conformably accumulated. During the Late Miocene,
the island of Lemnos was the site of volcanic activity. The
Miocene ends with the deposition of conglomerates, marls
and marly sandstones. Local Pleistocene porous calcare-
ous and locally oolitic limestones and Holocene alluvial,
coastal deposits and dunes are found.


Sixteen outcrops of deep-water sediments of Late

Eocene to Early Oligocene age were selected for study in
Lemnos Island (Fig. 1B). Due to the scarcity of the out-
crops, the studied outcrops were restricted to road cuts and
beaches. The lithological units were described in terms of
colour, texture, thickness, grain size and sedimentary
structures.  The paleocurrents were mainly derived from sole
marks, as they provide the best estimate of the mean flow
directions, although additional data were collected from
ripples. In amalgamated sandstone strata, the only available
paleocurrent indicators were cross-lamination foresets.
The terminology of Pickering et al. (1986) has been used
for the general description of sedimentary facies. Walker
(1965, 1967), Hubert (1967), Nardin et al. (1979), Lowe

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(1982), Piper et al. (1985), Postma (1986), Shanmugam
(2000), Stow & Johansson (2000) works are used to infer
the flow types during the deposition.

Sedimentary facies and environments

The sedimentary succession in Lemnos Island is divided

into four units (Fig. 2). The lower three units correspond to
submarine fan deposits whereas the upper one corresponds
to shelf deposits, according to Roussos’s (1982) classifica-
tion, which are from the lower to the upper:

Unit 1

Description:  This unit, with up to 100 m total thick-

ness, was studied at outcrops 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Fig. 1B), and
is characterized by light brown to light green, fine- to
medium-grained sandstone, grading upwards, to very
fine-grained sandstone, interbedded with hemipelagic
claystones (Fig. 3C). It often exhibits parallel lamina-
tion; cross-laminations and/or climbing ripples, defining
sequence Tb and Tc of Bouma (1962) sub-divisions
(Fig. 3A). The cross-lamination is commonly overlain by
convolute lamination. The sandstone beds have flat
bases and very good lateral continuity (at least a hundred

meters). The claystone facies are brownish and typically
lack internal structure, although beds with silt lamina,
with an upward decrease in lamina thickness, have been

Trace fossils are very common in the fine- to medium-

grained sandstones. These traces (e.g. Lorenzinia,
Paleodictyon  and  Cosmorhaphae) have great propagation
and at the base of some sandstone beds these species are of
significant size. Flute and groove marks are of great
importance, especially groove marks, which are abundant.
The groove marks typically have lengths of 15—25 cm
while the flute marks have lengths of 6—10 cm and widths
of 2—4 cm.

Turbidites at outcrops 1 and 2, show a distinct upward

increase of the sandstone/claystone ratio up to 9 : 1
(Fig. 3B) in contrast to the turbidites at the outcrops 3 and 4
which lack well-defined trends in bed thickness (Fig. 4A,B).
The sandstone thickness varies from 1 to 200 cm, at the
outcrops 1 and 2, and from 1 to 40 cm, at the outcrops 3
and 4.

Interpretation: The characteristic features demonstrate

deposition from both low and high-density turbidity
currents. The sandstone and claystones beds are classified
as sedimentary facies C2.1, C2.2 and C2.3 and D2.2 in the
Pickering et al. (1986) nomenclature. The common
occurrence of convolute and climbing ripples clearly

Fig. 1. A – Geological map of Greece showing Lemnos Island. B – Detailed geological map modified from Roussos (1982) of
Lemnos Island where the four stratigraphic units were mapped.

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indicates rapid deposition of sediments from suspension.
Such rapid deposition is related to the dilution of flow
associated with the transition from confined, channelized
conditions, with high gradients, to unconfined, lateral
spreading across more gently sloping depositional lobe
areas (Mutti & Normark 1987).

The presence of distinct, small-scale, thickening-up-

ward cycles within major thickening-upward cycles, at
the outcrops 1 and 2, indicates a lobe sequence (Mutti et
al. 1978). These minor thickening-upward cycles are
considered to represent compensation features or “com-
pensation cycles” produced by progressive smoothing
out of the depositional relief as a result of lobe
upbuilding or aggradation (Mutti & Sonnino 1981).
Both, aggradation and progradation, are responsible for
lobe development. At the bedform scale the system is
aggradational, however, the entire lobe package is a re-
sult of progradation (Shanmugan & Moiola 1988).

Fig. 2. Stratigraphy of Upper Eocene—Lower Oligocene deposits
in the Lemnos area.

The lack of well-defined trends in bed thickness in the

turbiditic succession, of the outcrops 3 and 4, indicate that
these outer fan deposits are constructed by vertical aggra-
dation, rather than basinward progradation (Hiscott 1981).
The turbiditic succession, of the outcrops 3 and 4, could
also suggest levee deposits (especially away from the
levee crests). However, their very good lateral continuity,
the lack of slump features, resulting from levee failure, and
the absence of evidence for channel-fill deposits, preclude
this suggestion.

From the above interpretations a basin floor environ-

ment is indicated for this unit.

Unit 2

Description:  This unit, with a total thickness up to

50 m, was studied at outcrops 5, 6, 7, and 8 (Fig. 1B), and
is constituted by light brown to light green, thin- to
thick-bedded (beds 4—250 cm), fine- to coarse-grained
sandstones, interbedded with hemipelagic claystones
(Fig. 5A,C).

In the lower part of this unit sandstones, mostly mas-

sive and less with normal grading, are thick-bedded and
the sandstone to claystone ratio ranges from 7 : 1 to 9 : 1.
Sandstones commonly show sharp, irregular and some-
times erosional bases, forming amalgamated beds up to
300 cm thick (Fig. 5B), and with very low lateral conti-
nuity. The upper parts of beds with normal grading show
parallel lamination and/or ripple cross-lamination (Tb
and/or Tc of Bouma (1962) sub-divisions).

In the upper parts of this unit, turbidites show a dis-

tinct fining and thinning trend. Thus thick-bedded,
coarse-grained sandstones fine upward and/or laterally
pinch out to thin-bedded, fine-grained sandstones
interbedded with hemipelagic claystone. The sandstone
to claystone ratio, in this upper part, ranges from 3 : 1 to
6 : 1. The majority of the thin-bedded sandstones show
parallel lamination and/or ripple cross-lamination (Tb
and/or Tc of Bouma (1962) sub-divisions) while a few
massive beds occur.

Interpretation: The sharp, irregular and sometimes ero-

sional base in association with the laterally discontinuous
geometry of the thick-bedded sandstones indicates infill
of submarine fan channels, from turbidity currents with
erosive ability, such as high-density turbidity currents.
The thick-bedded, normally graded sandstones with paral-
lel lamination and/or ripple cross-lamination are classified
as deposits from waning turbidity currents in a submarine
channel environment. The sandstones and claystones are
classified as sedimentary phases C1, C2.1 and D2.3 in the
Pickering et al. (1986) nomenclature. The thin-bedded
sandstones with the parallel lamination and/or ripple cross-
lamination have been interpreted as channel-related
overbank deposits. These deposits were deposited by tur-
bidity currents emanating from within the confines of an
adjacent channel and are classified as facies C2.2 and
C2.3 in the Pickering et al. (1986) nomenclature.

The overall interpretation suggests slope fan deposits

(Posamentier & Allen 1993).

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Unit 3

Description:   This unit, with a total thickness up to 50 m,

was studied at outcrops 9, 10, 11 and 12 (Fig. 1B), with a
distinct fining and thinning upwards trend (Fig. 6C). Sedi-
ments consist of thin- to very thick-bedded sandstones
(beds 3—400 cm thick), which are locally associated with
pebbly sandstones and conglomerates, interbedded with
hemipelagic claystones (Fig. 6A). Sandstones are light
brown to light green, fine- to very coarse-grained and with
very low lateral continuity. Conglomerates are often disor-
ganized although locally inverse to normal grading is
present. The conglomerates are polymictic and consist of
radiolaritic, calcareous, arenaceous, gneissic schists, quartz-
itic cobbles and of arenaceous cement. The claystone facies
are brownish and typically lack internal structure although
beds with silt laminae have been recognized.

In detail, the very thick- to thick-bedded, very coarse-

to medium-grained sandstones, associated with pebbly
sandstones and conglomerates (sandstone to claystone
ratio ranges from 8 : 1 to 9 : 1), fine upward and/or later-
ally evolve into thin-bedded, fine- to medium-grained
sandstones (sandstone to claystone ratio ranges from 1 : 3
to 1 : 1), interbedded with hemipelagic claystones.

The thick-bedded sandstones commonly show sharp,

irregular and often erosional bases and form amalgam-
ated beds up to 350 cm thick. The sandstone is generally
massive and in some places normal grading is also
present. The upper parts of normally graded beds show
parallel lamination and/or ripple cross-lamination (Tb
and/or Tc of Bouma (1962) sub-divisions). The thin-bed-
ded sandstones show parallel lamination and/or ripple
cross-lamination (Tb and/or Tc of Bouma (1962) sub-
divisions). Laterally, these thin-bedded sandstones
evolve into a slump unit of fine sandstone and claystone
interbeds. The sandstone beds have lenticular geometry
and exhibit mostly cross-lamination (Fig. 6B).

Moreover, in the central part of outcrop 13, brownish,

thin-bedded claystones are present and typically lack in-
ternal structure (Fig. 7A,B). Sandstone beds within
claystones, are unusual, but when they occur they are
very thin-bedded and fine-grained.


Conglomerates, pebbly sandstones,

sandstones and claystones are classified as facies A1.1,
A2.2, A2.3, B1.1, C2.1, C2.2, C2.3 and D2.2 in the
Pickering et al. (1986) nomenclature. Conglomerates and
pebbly sandstones were deposited from traction-carpet be-
neath high concentration currents, non-cohesive sandy de-

Fig. 3. A – Outcrop of sandstones defining sequence Tb and Tc divisions of Bouma. B – Outcrop from Unit 1. Note the upward change of
the sandstone to claystone ratio. C – Stratigraphic log of Unit 1.

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Fig. 5. A – Outcrop photograph of Unit 2. B – Outcrop of sand-
stones showing erosive base. C – Stratigraphic log of Unit 2. Note
the thinning and fining upward cycles.

Fig. 4. A – Outcrop from Unit 1. Note the lack of well-defined
trends in bed thickness in the turbidite packets. B – Stratigraphic
log of Unit 1.

bris flows or grain flows. The massive, thick-bedded sand-
stones demonstrate deposition from turbidity currents with
erosive ability, such as high-density turbidity currents.
Both thick- and thin-bedded, normally graded sand-
stones with parallel lamination and/or ripple cross-lami-
nation are classified as a deposit from waning turbidity
currents in a submarine channel environment. The
slumped thin-bedded sandstones with mostly cross-lami-
nation were deposited by turbidity currents emanating
from within the confines of an adjacent channel and are
interpreted as overbank deposits, while slump may have
developed in response to failure of aggraded overbank de-
posits (Walker 1978).

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This unit, as Unit 2, represents slope fan deposits, but

sedimentation took place in the upper parts of a subma-
rine fan and represents the infill of a relatively deep, lev-
eed channel. The influence of the erosion during
deposition was greater indicating more restricted basin
topography in a position more proximal to the source
area in terms of Unit 2.

The thin-bedded claystones in the central part of out-

crop 13 are interpreted as slope deposits that cross-cut
channel or levee deposits.

Fig. 6. A – Outcrop of
Unit 3. Note the abrupt
upward decrease in
grain size within the
channel-fill succession.
B – Slump unit of fine
sandstone and claystone

Fig. 6. C – Sedimentological log of Unit 3 at outcrop 9. Note the
thinning and fining upward sedimentation cycles.

Fig. 7. Outcrop 13 where slope deposits cross-cut levee in the east-
ern part of the section (photo A) and channel-fill deposits in the
western part of the section (photo B).

Unit 4

Description: This unit, with a total thickness up to

250 m, was studied at outcrops 14 and 15 (Fig. 1B). The
base of this unit consists almost entirely of sandstones,
in beds up to 60 cm thick, which are interbedded with
very thin claystone beds (Fig. 8C,E). Many soles of sand-
stone beds appear featureless but others show grooves
and tool marks. Internal structures are dominated by
prominent parallel lamination. The sandstone beds show,





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generally a single set of ripple cross-laminae at the top.
The claystone interbeds commonly contain a high amount
of coal debris (Fig. 8D). Upwards, this unit grades from a
sand-dominant to an almost completely clay-dominant se-
quence, which consists of massive, homogeneous green or
green-grey claystones (Fig. 8A,B).

Interpretation: The sandstones of this unit do not re-

semble any of the turbidity facies described by Mutti & Ricci
Lucchi (1975). Similar sandstones are described by Hamblin
& Walker (1979) and interpreted as storm-surge deposits on
the deeper parts of shelves. The overall fining-upward trend
has been attributed to turbidity currents (Hamblin & Walker
1979) and, to shelf storm currents (Aigner & Reineck 1983).

Paleocurrent analyses

In order to estimate the paleoflow direction,

paleocurrent data were collected from six outcrops (see
locations 3, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 16 in Fig. 1B) and the flute and
groove marks were measured. The number of measure-
ments from each outcrop ranges from 10 to 15 and there
were plotted in rose diagrams (Fig. 9), showing that the
main paleocurrent direction has a NNE trend. Rose dia-
grams that comprised a consistency ratio less than 0.7
were not taken into consideration during interpretation
of the results.

Fig. 8. A, B – Thin-bedded claystones from the lower part of Unit 4. C – Sedimentological log of Unit 4. D – Coal nests at the base
of the un-cohesive sandstones. E – Un-cohesive sandstones in the upper part of Unit 4 where Bouma sub-divisions are absent.


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Discussion and conclusions

From the Late Eocene to Early Oligocene in Lemnos Is-

land, Greece submarine fan and shelf deposits were accu-
mulated. Submarine fans underlie shelf deposits. The
sediments accumulated in a broad basin, which, in this
time interval, was gradually restricted in space.

The flow types that controlled the depositional pro-

cesses of the submarine fans were grain flows, debris flows
and low-, medium- and high-density turbidity currents
(Walker 1965, 1967; Hubert 1967; Nardin et al. 1979;
Lowe 1982; Piper et al. 1985; Postma 1986; Shanmugam
2000; Stow & Johansson 2000).

The submarine fan is characterized by the presence of

distinct, small-scale, thickening-upward cycles within ma-
jor thickening-upward cycles at the outcrops 1 and 2
(Unit 1), the lack of well-defined trends in bed thickness
in the turbiditic succession, of the outcrops 3 and 4
(Unit 1), and by the covering of distal fan deposits
(Unit 1), by proximal fan deposits (Unit 2), at the loca-
tion 16 (Fig. 10). These features indicate a simultaneous

Fig. 9. Rose diagrams from six outcrops (for location see Fig. 1B), showing the main N-E trend of the paleocurrent direction.

interaction of progradation and aggradation for the sub-
marine fan development (Shanmugan & Moiola 1988).

The facts that: 1. the sandstone to claystone ratio within

the entire submarine fan deposits is up to 70 % approxi-
mately, 2. typical lobes are well preserved and, 3. the pres-
ence of attached lobes in outcrop 16, demonstrates the
classification of the deep water deposits as a sand/rich
submarine fan (Shanmugan & Moiola 1988; Reading &
Richards 1994). Unit 1 can be characterized as basin floor
fan deposits while Units 2 and 3 are slope fan deposits
(Posamentier & Allen 1993).

The above described evolution of turbidites in the

three lower units, show the active supply of coarse-
grained siliciclastic sediments to the deep water environ-
ments and could be related to a prodeltaic setting on a
prograding delta to turbidite slope (Piper et al. 1985).
Thus, the sedimentological evolution of turbidites re-
lated to the fact that during the Early Oligocene shelf de-
posits were deposited conformably over submarine fan
deposits, a progressive relative sea-level fall is indicated
for the period between the Late Eocene and Early Oli-

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Fig. 10. A – Sediment succession in outcrop 16. Note that inner fan
deposits have overlain the outer fan deposits. B – Sedimentological
log of outcrop 16. The lower part of the sequence consists of
thickening and coarsening upward sedimentary cycles, while the upper
part consists of thinning and fining upward sedimentary cycles.

gocene (Ricci Lucchi & Valmori 1980; Mutti 1985;
Posamentier & Vail 1988).

The biostratigraphy of calcareous nannofossils show that

sedimentation took place between the NP18 to NP21

Biozones (Martini 1971). According to Haq et al. (1987)
this time interval is characterized by lowstand conditions
with no significant sea-level changes. Thus, it could be sug-
gested that the studied area was mostly influenced by re-
gional tectonic activity rather than by eustatic sea-level

Considering that the main paleocurrent direction is

NNE and the fact that the conglomerates consist of meta-
morphic and pyroclastic clasts a proximal source for the
fan should be located SSW.

The proposed style of a sand rich fan could be applied

in the direction of hydrocarbon field development, given
the abundance of sand within the sequence, which is very
critical for reservoirs in the N—NE Aegean region.

Acknowledgments:  The authors would like to thank both
reviewers Dr. D.J.W. Piper and Dr. Ján Soták, for their help-
ful comments that improved the paper. Moreover, we
would like to thank Prof. K. Stoykova for her help with
biostratigraphy. This study has been funded jointly by the
E.C., European Social fund and GSRT Greece. EPAN,
PENED ‘03ED497’.


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