Geochemistry of 24 Ma basalts from NE Egypt: source components and fractionation history
Subalkaline basalts from NE Egypt represent an episode of magmatism at c. 24 Ma, coincident with widespread eruptive activity in northern Africa. New geochemical data provide insight into the mineralogical and isotopic characteristics of the underlying mantle. The basalts show little geochemical variation, with incompatible trace element abundances similar to those of ocean island basalts. They display fairly smooth primitive mantle-normalized incompatible trace element patterns. Trace element abundances and Sr–Nd–Pb–Hf isotopic signatures are consistent with contributions from two distinct source regions, one similar to the Afar plume and the other located within the metasomatized spinel-facies subcontinental lithosphere. Mixing of melts from these two domains was followed by minor crustal contamination during prolonged ascent or emplacement. Integrating the geochemical data with available tomographic information allows us to develop a framework for understanding mid-Tertiary magmatic activity throughout northern Africa. A model for this widespread volcanism involves ascent of upwelling mantle derived from the margins of the South African Superplume rooted at the core–mantle boundary and/or through small-scale convection at the 660 km discontinuity. Ascent of magmas to the surface was facilitated by pre-existing structures within the lithosphere, including those associated with incipient rifting of the Red Sea.