Terrace staircases of the River Euphrates in southeast Turkey, northern Syria and western Iraq: evidence for regional surface uplift

Demir T., WESTAWAY R., Bridgland D. R., Seyrek A.

QUATERNARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, vol.26, no.22-24, pp.2844-2863, 2007 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 26 Issue: 22-24
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.07.019
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.2844-2863
  • Akdeniz University Affiliated: No


We present the first overall synthesis of the terrace deposits of the River Euphrates in SE Turkey, northern Syria, and western Iraq, combining new observations with summaries of data sets from different reaches that had previously been independently studied on a piecemeal basis. The largest number of terraces observed in any reach of the Euphrates is 11, in western Iraq, where this river leaves the uplands of the Arabian Platform. In many other localities not more than 5 or 6 terraces have previously been identified, although we infer that some of these are resolvable into multiple terraces. These terraces are typically formed of gravel, principally consisting of Neotethyan ophiolite and metamorphic lithologies transported from Anatolia. Although older gravels are also evident, most of the Euphrates terrace deposits appear, given the chronologies that have been established for different parts of the study region, to date from the late Early Pleistocene onwards, the cold stages most often represented being interpreted as marine Oxygen Isotope Stages 22, 16, 12, 8, 6 and/or 4, and 2. The formation of this terrace staircase reflects regional uplift of the Arabian Platform. Estimated amounts of uplift since the Middle Pliocene decrease southeastward from almost 300 m in SE Turkey to similar to 150 m in western Iraq. Uplift rates increased in the late Early Pleistocene, the uplift estimated since then decreasing from similar to 110 m in SE Turkey to a minimum of similar to 50 m in the Syria-Iraq border region, then increasing further downstream across western Iraq to similar to 70 m. Numerical modelling of this uplift indicates a relatively thin mobile lower-crustal layer, consistent with the low surface heat flow in the Arabian Platform. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.