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THE INTERNAL PALEOGENE FLYSCH OF THE EASTERN CARPATHIANS:


PALEOCURRENTS, SOURCE AREAS AND FACIES SIGNIFICANCE

L. CONTESCU, D. JIPA, N. MIHAILESCU AND N . PANIN

Geological Institute of the Academy of Sciences and Geological Committee, Bucarest (Rumania)

(Received July 14, 1965)

SUMMARY

After a brief review of the structure, the stratigraphy and the facies of the Ruma-
nian eastern Carpathians flysch zone, the authors analyse the main paleocurrent
directions on the internal facies of the paleogene flysch. The most important and
numerous currents were longitudinal and came into the flysch trough from an outlet
area situated in the Carpathian arc region. For this reason it is inferred that the
principal source of detrital material was represented by the Pannonian-Transylvanian
internal massif.
The crystalline core of the eastern Carpathians furnished only a small quantity
of clastics, which were transported into the trench by means of transversal, relatively
weak currents. The role of different structural elements (platforms, cordilleras,
internal massifs) in providing detrital material is briefly discussed. Finally, an attempt
is made to outline the paleogeographic evolution of the eastern Carpathians during
the Paleogene.

INTRODUCTION

In the Rumanian eastern Carpathians one can distinguish three longitudinal


structural-paleogeographic zones of prime importance, oriented north-south and
succeeding one another from the internal towards the external part of the chain in
the following order: ( I ) crystalline-Mesozoic zone; (2) Cretaceous-Paleogene flysch
zone; and (3) Miocene-Pliocene molasse zone. The first and second zones belong to
the geosynclinal domain, the third to the fore-deep area (Fig. 1).
In its internal part, the flysch zone comprises especially Cretaceous deposits,
while on the external side mostly paleogene flyschs are developed.
Between the Bistrita and the BuzBu Valleys it is possible to separate within
the Paleogene flysch subzone three facies realms: (I) the TarcBu-Fusaru facies
(internal); (2) the Pasieczna-Kliwa facies (external) and, (3) between 1 and 2, an
intermediate facies (BANCILA, 1958).
Sedimentology, 7 (1966) 307-321
308 L. CONTESCU et al.

Fig.1. Structural-facial map of the Rumanian eastern Carpathians. I = eastern Carpathians and
southern Carpathians crystalline core; 2 = Cretaceous flysch zone; 3 = Paleogene Aysch zone: a =
internal (Tar&-Fusaru) facies; b = intermediate facies; c external (Pasieczna-Kliwa) facies; 4 =
:

Sotrile Eocene facies; 5 = Maramures Paleogene flysch; 6 = Neogene of the Carpathian fore-deep
and of the Transylvanian Basin.

The internal Paleogene is characterized by the development of a sandy flysch


in which thick-bedded sandstones are prevalent. The external facies is much poorer
in sandstones and includes mostly marls, marly limestones and argillaceous bitumi-
nous shales. In the intermediate facies one finds lithological elements of both internal
and external type (thick- and thin-bedded sandstones alternating with marls and
shales).
West of the Teleajen Valley, during the Eocene a typical flysch was laid down,
the Sotrile facies, which has a more internal position than the Tarcgu facies (MUR-
GEANU,1934). Since the latter facies disappears towards the west, concomitantly
with the development of the former one, the result is that the Tarcgu type of Eocene
is probably gradually replaced by the Sotrile facies (POPESCU,1952).
Sedirnentology, 7 (1966) 307-321
INTERNAL PALEOGENE FLYSCH OF EASTERN CARPATHIANS 309

West of the crystalline-Mesozoic zone, which represents the central part of


the Carpathian chain, Paleogene deposits are again developed in flysch facies in the
Maramures Trough.

STRATIGRAPHY A N D FACIES OF THE INTERNAL PALEOGENE FLYSCH I N THE EASTERN


CARPATHIANS

The most internal part of the eastern Carpathian Paleogene flysch zone includes three
litho-stratonomical units: (I) the Tarciiu Sandstone complex (Paleocene-Middle
Eocene); (2) the Podu-Secu Beds (Upper Eocene); and (3) the Fusaru Sandstone
complex (Oligocene). (See Table I.)
In the Tarcau sandstone two types of sequences are known. The first, most
characteristic one is built up by a succession of thick-bedded sandstones (0.5-2.0 m
but sometimes exceeding 10 m), separated from each other by thin beds of shales,
or by diastems.
The second type of sequence, subordinate to the first, consists of a rhythmic
alternation of thin-bedded arenites (5-20 cm) and lutites, sometimes variegated.
The Podu-Secu Beds, of Upper Eocene age are a guide horizon situated between
the Tarcilu and the Fusaru Sandstones (BANCILA,1958). The Podu-Secu type of

TABLE I
STRATIGRAPHY OF THE PALEOGENE FLYSCH DEPOSITS IN THE EASTERN CARPATHIANS

Age Maramures Eastern Carpathian main trough


Trough
westward of internal intermediate external
the Carpathian facies facies facies
arc

Upper Vinetisu Menilitic


Oligocene Borsa Pucioasa Fusaru Beds Shales
and
Lower Sandstone Beds Sandstone Intermediate Kliwa
Oligocene facies Sandstone
__ - ~~~ -

Upper Podu-Secu Plopu Bisericani


Eocene Flysch Beds Beds Beds
_ _ _ of hiero-
~ Sotrile -~
Lower glyphic External
and beds facies Tarc5u Intermediate facies
Middle type Sandstone facies with
Eocene Pasieczna
Limestone

Upper Red
Cretaceous beds Inoceramian beds

Sedimentology, 7 (1966) 307-321


3 10 L. CONTESCU et al.

sequence is similar to the second type of sequence of the Tarciiu Sandstone and is
built by an alternation of arenites 2-30 cm thick, and marly or clayey lutites.
The Sotrile type of Eocene was deposited during the whole Eocene and is made
up by a rhythmic alternation of sandstones: laminated marls and red or green clays
(CONTESCU et al., 1963).
The Eocene flysch of Maramures is represented by a rhythmic succession of
arenites, generally thin-bedded alternating with grey, greenish and red marly lutites.
The Fusaru Sandstone complex, of Oligocene age, is built up, for the most
part, by thick sandstones. No differences between the Tarciiu and the Fusaru type
of arenites are apparent, but the intercalated fine sediments are quite different: in the
Oligocene they are mostly argillaceous, bituminous shales, and silts.
West of the Buziiu Valley, it is obvious that, as in the case of the Eocene sedi-
ments, a facies change in the Oligocene lithology takes place. The greater part of the
Oligocene deposits is represented here by soft, dark, silty and clayey rocks associated
with thin beds of laminated sandstones, marly ferruginous limestones and bitumi-
nous shales. The massive sandstones of Fusaru type are rather rare.
The Upper Oligocene deposits of the Carpathian arc designated as Vinetisu
Beds are a more typical flysch.
In the external part of the eastern Carpathian flysch geosyncline, the Oligocene
Kliwa Sandstones are thick-bedded white orthoquartzites. They merge westwards
into the Fusaru type of sandstones.
The Oligocene deposits in Maramures are known as the Borsa Sandstone
complex. This is a sandy flysch in which arenites 0.50-1.00 m thick are prevalent.
Marls and shales, often bituminous, are subordinate.

PALEOCURRENT DIRECTIONS

Lower and Middle Eocene

In the Tarcau Sandstone two main current directions are obvious: a longitu-
dinal direction, from the south and southwest and a transverse one from the west.
The longitudinal trend of the paleocurrents parallel to the strike of the flysch trough
is indicated by a greater number of current readings. The importance of the transverse
directions is clearly subordinate (Fig.2).
In the Carpathian arc area a stronger dispersion of current directions is evident.
The measurements carried out in the Tarciiu Sandstone southwest of Buziiu
Valley indicate oblique and longitudinal currents that came from the northeast,
~. -

Fig.2. Paleogeographical sketch of the internal part of the eastern Carpathians during the Lower and
the Middle Eocene. I = eastern Carpathians and southern Carpathians crystalline core; 2 = Creta-
ceous flysch; 3 = internal Paleogene facies realm; 4 = land and epicontinental area of the Transyl-
vanian massif, Russian Platform and eastern Carpathians crystalline core; 5 = paleocurrent directions
in the TarcZu Sandstone; 6 = paleocurrent directions in the Sotrile flysch.
Sedimentology, 7 (1966) 307-321
I
312 L. CONTESCU et al.

contrasting with the dominant sense of the longitudinal currents. In this area trans-
versal currents from the north have also been recorded.
As concerns the paleocurrents of the Sotrile flysch, longitudinal directions
from the west are prevalent, with fan-like spreading in the western end of the trough
(CONTESCU et al., 1963). But in the eastern part of its area of development, besides
the longitudinal directions from the west, transversal directions from the north and
also longitudinal directions from the east appear (CONTESCU and MIHAILESCU, 1967).

Upper Eocene

In the Podu-Secu Beds the distribution of current directions is generally similar to


that of the Tarcau Sandstone. But the transversal currents play a much more impor-
tant role than in the TarcBu Sandstone (Fig.3).
The upper part of the Sotrile flysch was deposited by the same current system
which supplied material during the Lower and Middle Eocene.
In the Eocene flysch of Maramures, the current trend is directed especially
towards the east and the northeast (MIHAILESCU and PANIN,1962).

Lower Oligocene

A current pattern almost identical with that of the TarcBu Sandstone developed
during the sedimentation of the Fusaru Sandstone. Longitudinal currents became again
the most important current system (Fig.4).
Up to now, few data on the distribution of current directions in the Pucioasa
Beds are available. It seems that the longitudinal currents coming from the west
prevailed over transversal currents from the north.
In the Maramures, the main supply directions in the Borsa Sandstone are
directed from west and southwest up to the immediate proximity of the Carpathian
crystalline core, while others of lesser importance diverge from this nucleus (JIPA,1962).

Upper Oligocene

In the internal facies of the Upper Oligocene, in Bucovina, the current directions
reveal the transport of sediment especially from the north, parallel with the trend
of the basin. There are also oblique directions from the northeast and northwest
(Fig.5). DUMITRIU and DUMITRIU (1959), also DIMIAN and POPA-DIMIAN (1964)

Fig.3. Paleogeographical sketch of the internal part of the eastern Carpathians during the Upper
Eocene. I = eastern Carpathians and southern Carpathians crystalline core; 2 = Cretaceous
flysch; 3 = internal Paleogene facies realm; 4 = land and epicontinental area of the Transylvanian
massif, Russian Platform and eastern Carpathians crystalline core; 5 = paleocurrent directions in
the Podu-Secu Beds; 6 = paleocurrent directions in the Maramures Eocene flysch; 7 = paleocurrent
directions in the Sotrile flysch.
Sedimentotogy, 7 (1966) 307-321
314 L. CONTESCU et al.

found the same predominant current directions in the Upper Oligocene (Vinetisu
Beds) of the BuzHu Valley region.
The sedimentation of Borsa Sandstone in Maramures persists also in the Upper
Oligocene. Similar current directions have also been recorded here as in the lower
part of this complex.

LONGITUDINAL AND TRANSVERSAL CURRENTS

It follows from the data presented above, that longitudinal currents dominate in
the sedimentation of the turbidites within the eastern Carpathians Paleogene flysch.
In the facies of the Sotrile flysch, TarcHu Sandstone, Fusaru Sandstone and in
the Upper Oligocene of Bucovina, longitudinal currents are obviously prevalent.
They are, however, accompanied by transversal currents, which sometimes, as in the
case of the Podu-Secu Beds, have greater importance.
In the Tarciiu-Fusaru type of Paleogene, D. Jipa (unpublished data) found that
the finer-grained and thin-bedded material has been supplied transversally from a
source situated nearby, while the coarser-grained and thicker-bedded sand has been
carried longitudinally from a distant source. On these grounds he reached the con-
clusion that longitudinal currents originated and developed independently of the
transversal ones.
The most obvious and the longest longitudinal transport has been ascertained
in the Tarciiu and Fusaru Sandstone facies. The total thickness of these deposits
and their longitudinal variation are in close relation with the orientation of the current
markings. Actually, in the southtern extremity of the two above-mentioned facies,
an area may be distinguished (between the BuzBu and the Prahova Valleys) where
the maximum thickness of the deposits is reached (up to 1,500 m for the Tarciiu
Sandstone and up to 1,700 m for the Fusaru Sandstone). In this area, current markings
indicate a mixture of transversal, oblique and longitudinal directions (often in opposite
senses), without any preponderance of either and suggesting a fan-like pattern
(Fig.2). This is the region situated in the immediate proximity of the supply area and
at the same time the area where the longitudinal currents were formed and started
on their course. Towards the north, the thickness of both Tarciiu and Fusaru facies
is smaller than in the former area and relatively constant. This corresponds with the
marked predominance of longitudinal currents.
Accordingly, the distance covered by the longitudinal current flow is about
200-250 km.

Fig.4. Paleogeographical sketch of the internal part of the eastern Carpathians during the Lower
Oligocene. 1 = Eastern Carpathians and southern Carpathians crystalline core; 2 = Cretaceous
flysch; 3 = internal Paleogene facies realm; 4 = land and epicontinental area of the Transylvanian
massif, Russian Platform and eastern Carpathians crystalline core; 5 = paleocurrent directions in the
Fusaru Sandstone; 6 = paleocurrent directions in the Borsa Sandstone; 7 = paleocurrent directions
in the Kliwa Sandstone; 8 = paleocurrent directions in the Pucioasa Beds.
Sedimentology, 7 (1 966) 307-321
3 16 L. CONTESCU et a].

It seems very probable that the elongate and relatively narrow shape of the
flysch trough canalized the currents and did not allow them to spread and dissipate
their energy as it would have happened in a wide basin.
The dispersion of the transversal directions recorded in the Paleogene flyschs
suggests in most cases a fan-like spreading of the transported material.
It must be mentioned, however, that in the Borsa Sandstone the transversal
currents seem to turn towards the southeast, becoming longitudinal, probably under
the influence of the basin narrowing and sloping in that direction.

SOURCES OF DETRITAL MATERIAL

Taking into consideration the current directions in the different Paleogene flysch
series, it is possible to localize some points or areas where the sandy material was
introduced into the geosynclinal trough of the eastern Carpathians.
( I ) The most important of these outlet areas was situated in the region of the
Carpathian arc. The clastics supplied were transported by the turbidity currents
especially towards the northeast and then towards the north. A lesser part was carried
towards the south and southwest.
(2) A second important point from which the material spread out in the flysch
trench was located in the extreme west part of the Sotrile facies area. From here
currents started that transported and then deposited the bulk of the sand and mud of
the Sotrile and Pucioasa Beds.
(3) Another zone which provided detrital particles for the flysch trenches
was the northeastern and northern border of the Pannonian-Transylvanian internal
massif. Many paleocurrents in the Maramures trough have had their origin there.
(4) Points of outlet for the particle-loaded currents were also situated along the
western margin of the Russian Platform.
(5) A less active source was the eastern Carpathian crystalline core, which
furnished sand especially for the Podu-Secu Beds and for the thin-bedded sandstones
intercalated in the Tarcgu and Fusaru complexes.
(6) A still smaller quantity of material was deposited by the currents originated
north of the Sotrile flysch trough, where an emerged territory probably existed,
prolongation of the crystalline nucleus of the southern Carpathians.
A problem on which there is much less information is the connection between
the points of detrital material outlet and the emerged areas which furnished this
material.

Fig.5. Paleogeographical sketch of the internal part of the eastern Carpathians during the Upper
Oligocene. I = eastern Carpathians and southern Carpathians crystalline core; 2 = Cretaceous
flysch; 3 = internal Paleogene facies realm; 4 = land and epicontinental area of the Transylvanian
massif, Russian Platform and eastern Carpathians crystalline core; 5 = paleocurrent directions in
the Krosno-Vinetisu Beds; 6 = paleocurrent directions in the Borsa Sandstone.
Sedimentology, 7 (1966) 307-321
318 L. CONTESCU et al.

For the sand and mud transported by means of longitudinal currents in the
Sotrile flysch trough, the source area must be the granite and crystalline rocks of the
southern Carpathians which, at that time, were linked with the Pannonian land.
The clastic material transported transversally from west to east in the eastern
Carpathian Paleogene zone had its source in the crystalline core of this mountain
chain.
The emerged portions of the Russian Platform furnished detrital particles for
a part of the Eocene deposits and for the Oligocene Kliwa Sandstone of the Bucovina.
But the bulk of material constituting the Tarcau and Fusaru Sandstones and
the Paleogene flysch in Maramures seems to have originated in the Transylvanian-
Pannonian internal massif.
In the Carpathian arc region the sandy material was derived from the south-
eastern part of the same Transylvanian block.
The manner in which the clastic particles reached the flysch trough is tied up
with the distribution of dry and submerged territories within this part of the Carpa-
thian domain and therefore the problem will be treated in more detail in the last
section.
Generally speaking, it appears that only two territories played a prominent
role as source areas for the clastic material of the Carpathian flysch troughs. The
first was the Central Pannonian-Transylvanian massif, to which was linked an impor-
tant part of the southern Carpathians, the second was the Russian Platform.
Thus, a central intergeosynclinal area is indicated which was for the most part
emerged. On this internal block, magmatic and crystalline rocks were prevalent and
could provide the enormous amount of sand which filled the internal part of the flysch
basin.
We consider that it is not necessary to postulate the existence of one (or even
several) cordillera within the flysch trench (DUMITRIU, 1964), situated east of the
Carpathian crystalline core. This last morphotectonic element provided a small
quantity of material, but was not a major source area.
From the available data, it follows that several minor sources of material also
contributed to the filling of the Carpathian flysch trenches during the Paleogene.

SEDIMENTOGENETICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FACIES

The stratonomical variations of the flysch deposits studied are rather small and
concern especially the bed-thickness. These variations are due on the one hand
to features of the source area (influencing the grain size and the rate of supply) and
on the other hand to the current peculiarities, such as competence, volume of sedimen-
tary load, frequency of current release.
On the ground of the recently obtained data, the sedimentogenetical significance
of some internal facies of the Paleogene flysch can be understood much better.
Thus, the typical Tarcau facies with its thick sandstones represents the deposits
Serlimmtology, I (1966) 307-321
INTERNAL PALEOGENE FLYSCII OF IASTEKN CAKPATHIANS 319

of Lower and Middle Eocene age whose clastic material has been, for the most
part, supplied through the outlet zone of the eastern Carpathians arc and then carried
farther to the north by longitudinal currents. The same picture is valid for the
Oligocene Fusaru facies.
The action of the currents having the same provenance, but which turned not
towards the north, but to the southwest and west, resulted in an intermediate type of
flysch between the Tarcfiu and the Sotrile facies.
The Sotrile facies includes the detritic material supplied from the western source
area and transported also by means of initial longitudinal currents starting at the
western end of the basin. The development towards the east of this facies was finally
stopped by the important supply of material originated from the outlet zone of the
Carpathian arc.
The peculiar features of the Podu-Secu Beds are due to a period of lower
activity of the longitudinal currents which supplied the sand from the Carpathian
bend outlet. That allowed the transversal currents, loaded with material yielded by the
Carpathian crystalline core, to exert a greater influence upon the sedimentary environ-
ment.
The Kliwa arcniles on the outer side of the eastern Carpathian flysch trench were
formed from sands originating from the Russian Platform.

PALEOGEOGRAPHICAL CONSIDERATIOS

During the sedimentation of the internal Paleogene deposits, two land areas
the Pannonian-Transylvanian internal massif and the Russian Platform, bordered
the sedimentary basins of the eastern Carpathians.
The greatest influence on the sedimentation of the internal Paleogene was
exerted by the Pannonian-Transylvanian massif. Its western part, including the
Pannonian block, the Apuseni (western) Mountains and the southern Carpathians
was, for the greater part, emerged. The eastern (Transylvanian) part had the character
of a marine epicontinental sea but also lagoonal and lacustrine area of sedimentation
where limestones, sands, gravels, and gypsum deposits were laid down. The total or
partial absence of the Paleogene, as appears in some drillings, indicates that neverthe-
less the Transylvanian territory was also partly emerged. Moreover, the current
directions in the Oligocene of Maramures clearly indicate that at least a part of this
area acted as a source of clastic material.
The fact that Lower Miocene deposits cover the whole territory of the present
Transylvanian basin and that these deposits rest upon older formations of different
ages (from Precambrian to Cretaceous) is a supplementary proof that during the
Paleogene the Transylvanian block was subjected to strong denudation.
The crystalline nucleus of the eastern Carpathians (the Maramures cordillera
of DZULYNSKI et al., 1959) appears as an elongated and rather narrow belt, between
the main eastern Carpathian Trench and the Maramures Trough. In the latter, current
Sedimentology, 7 (1966) 307-321
320 L. CONTESCU et al.

directions from the west may be encountered up to the immediate proximity of the
actual outcrops of crystalline rocks. Consequently, at least the northern extremity
of the Carpathian crystalline core was for the most part submerged. Communication
between the Maramures Trough and the main eastern Carpathian Trough was there-
fore possible. The presence in Maramures of shallow-water deposits of Lower
Eocene age resting directly upon the crystalline rocks shows that the northern part
of the Carpathian crystalline core was elevated to a higher level during the Lower
Eocene than during the Oligocene. This fact strengthens the supposition that this
nucleus constituted in Palcogene times only a chain of islands and submarine swells
which could not furnish a great amount of material.
The current directions recorded in the Borsa Sandstone (Oligocene) point to
the continuation towards the southeast of the Maramures Trough. It is therefore
possible that, at least during the sedimentation of the Oligocene flysch, the Maramures
Trough may have been connected with the main eastern Carpathian Trough in his
southern part, isolating the Carpathian crystalline core.
As revealed by the current directions, it appears that the arc area of the Carpa-
thians was a region of intense mobilisation of clastic material and, accordingly, a
depressionary zone.
That is why it is to be supposed that during Paleogene times, the crystalline
nuclei of the eastern and southern Carpathians were separated by a strait called by
MURGEANU(1934) the Sfintu Gheorghe Strait. Through this sinking area the huge
mass of sand and mud yielded by the Pannonian-Transylvanian massif penetrated
into the flysch trough.
The presence of Eocene and Oligocene deposits of lagoonal or even marine-
epicontinental origin covering in certain parts the basement rocks of the ancient
Pannonian-Transylvanian block is not an obstacle in considering this basement as
the main source for the clastic material of the Paleogene Carpathian flyschs.
For it is possible that the eroded material of the Transylvanian land was brought
to shallow waters of local extent (especially in the submerged area situated in the
southeastern corner of the Pannonian-Transylvanian massif), from where a part of
the sedimentary load, exceeding the storage capacity, moved down across the Sfintu
Gheorghe Strait into the flysch trench.
Thus, in our opinion, the presence of a denudation area in the immediate vicinity
of a trough is not always necessary as a source of detritus.
The existence of a land situated farther away, from which the eroded material
did not reach the flysch basin directly, but could pass “in transit” through a shallow-
water area of shelf type is also possible. The Transylvanian region represents such a
case.
Beginning with the Upper Oligocene, the chief current direction in the eastern
Carpathian Trough reversed and thus currents were oriented southward. That means
both a different source area and the inversion of the axial slope of the trench, marking
an important paleogeographical change, which seems to have continued during

Sedinzeirtoiogy, 7 (1 966) 307-321


INTERNAL PALEOGENE FLYSCH OF EASTERN CARPATHIANS 321

the deposition of the Miocene molassic deposits (DIMIAN and POPA-DIMIAN,


1964)
and even during the Pliocene (L. Contescu, unpublished data).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors wish to thank Professors Ph. H. Kuenen and G. Murgeanu for reading
and helpful criticism of the manuscript.

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