On the nature of the Cimmerian Continent

A. M.Celâl Şengör, Demir Altıner, Cengiz Zabcı, Gürsel Sunal, Nalan Lom*, Eşref Aylan, Tayfun Öner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The Cimmerian Continent is the narrow continental strip that rifted from the northeastern Gondwana-Land margin mostly during the Permian between the present-day Balkan regions and Indonesia and collided with the Laurasian margin sometime between the latest Triassic and the late Jurassic, in places possibly even in the earliest Cretaceous. In contrast to the initial definition and most subsequent models, the Cimmerian Continent did not leave Gondwana-Land in one piece, but such submarine platforms as the Sakarya, Menderes-Taurus and Kırşehir in Turkey, and what is herein called the Greater Lhasa from Afghanistan to Myanmar began separating both from Gondwana-Land and from the rest of the Cimmerian Continent at about the same time during the Permian. By contrast, the northern part of the Cimmerian Continent remained as a large, single-piece, island arc-type ribbon continent from Turkey to Malaysia comprising the units of the Rhodope-Pontide Fragment in Turkey, most of Transcaucasia and Iran, the Farah, western Qiangtang, Bao-Shan and the Shan States blocks and western Thailand and Malaysia throughout its independent history. This coherent ‘ribbon continent’, perhaps the largest documented in earth history, was almost wholly an ensialic arc only in places having generated Mariana-type ensimatic offspring. Thus, the northern margin of the Cimmerian Continent was of Pacific-type and not Atlantic-type as claimed by many authors in the literature. Naming its various parts individually helps description but should not be allowed to mislead interpretations in terms of individual, so-called ‘terranes’, as often happens. It seems that many of the oceanic basins that opened within and behind the Cimmerian Continent, including the Neo-Tethys, were back-arc basins and the Cimmerian continent had a serpentine motion as it traversed the Tethyan realm. It is therefore impossible to reconstruct synthetic isochrons to track the northerly migration of the large ribbon continent (except for purposes of simple visualisation of the journey of the Cimmerian Continent across the Tethyan realm). The Cimmerian Continent also had a complex internal tectonics, involving much along the strike-slip faulting, presumed to have been controlled by the age, subduction angle, rate of subduction, and the topography of the floor of the Palaeo-Tethys.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104520
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


NL acknowledges funding through The Dutch Research Council (NWO) Vici Grant 865.17.001 .

FundersFunder number
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek865.17.001


    • Cimmerian Continent
    • Maeran Ocean
    • Neo-Tethys
    • Palaeo-Tethys
    • Ribbon continent
    • Tectonic reconstruction


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