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The Tectonic Setting of Cyprus


Cyprus is located in a tectonically complex zone in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea where three continental plates meet: the African plate to the south, the Eurasian plate to the north and the Arabian plate to the east (Fig. 2 and 5).


The movements of these three plates relative to each other (separation, collision, parallel movement) since the early Mesozoic (about 200 Ma ago) has led to a number of geological features such as the formation or destruction of ocean basins (areas where sedimentary rocks are formed) and the formation of mountains (orogenesis).  The main relative movements of the plates include rifting (the plates move away from each other), collision (the plates move towards each other and collide or crash) and wrenching (the plates move parallel to each other but in a different direction, e.g. the plates are in contact with each other and one moves to the right and the other to the left).


The combination of the movements of the African, the Eurasian and the Arabian plates over the geological time has produced a number of features in the region, which include Cyprus itself (the Troodos Ophiolite), the Hellenic Arc to the west and its continuation to the east, the Eratosthenes seamount and the Levantine basin to the south, the Aegean graben system to the northwest, the Anatolian microplate to the north, including the northern and eastern Anatolian fault zones, the Red Sea rift to the south, and the Dead Sea Transform Fault to the southeast.  There are numerous ophiolite complexes within this area of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, of which the Troodos Ophiolite or Massif on Cyprus is one of the largest and best studied as well as well-preserved and most complete (including the entire suite of ophiolite rocks).


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