Progressive orocline formation in the Eastern Pontides–Lesser Caucasus
The Eastern Pontides–Lesser Caucasus fold–thrust belt displays a peculiar northwards arc-shaped geometry that was defined as an orocline in earlier studies. The Lesser Caucasus was affected by two main tectonic events that could have caused orocline formation: (1) Paleocene–Eocene collision of the South Armenian Block with Eurasia; and (2) Oligocene–Miocene Arabia–Eurasia collision. We tested the hypothesis that the Lesser Caucasus is an orocline and aimed to time the formation of this orocline. To determine the vertical axis rotations, 37 sites were sampled for palaeomagnetism in rocks of Upper Cretaceous–Miocene age in Georgia and Armenia. In addition, we compiled a review of c. 100 available datasets. A strike test was applied to the remaining datasets, which were divided into four chronological sub-sets, leading us to conclude that the Eastern Pontides–Lesser Caucasus fold–thrust belt forms a progressive orocline. We concluded that: (1) some pre-existing curvature must have been present before the Late Cretaceous; (2) the orocline acquired part of its curvature after the Paleocene and before the Middle Eocene as a result of South Armenian Block–Eurasia collision; and (3) about 50% of the curvature formed after the Eocene and probably before the Late Miocene, probably as a result of Arabia–Eurasia collision.