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Nubian Sandstone

Nubian Sandstone refers to a variety of sedimentary rocks deposited on the Precambrian basement in the eastern Sahara, north-east Africa and Arabia. It consist of continental sandstones with thin beds of marine limestones, and marls. Nubian sandstone was deposited between the Lower Paleozoic and Upper Cretaceous, with marine beds dating from the Carboniferous to Lower Cretaceous.[1]

Additional recommended knowledge



Nubian sandstone ranges in age from the Cambrian to Upper Cretaceous eras. Positioning of the paleoequator and paleolatitude at 20° S was derived from paleomagnetic data showing Nubian sandstone was originally deposited in the paleoequatorial to subequatorial zone. These paleomagnetic results corroborated previous studies suggesting there was no polar wandering and continental drift in Africa during 210 to 110 million years and extended this period to 85 million years. Nubian sandstone is deposited under a tropical to subtropical climate and is formed under a variety of continental conditions, excluding eolian merging intermittently into shallow marine.[2]


  The Nubian sandstone complex has a thickness varying from under 500 m to over 3000 m, resting on the Precambrian basement. This is complicated by various structural faults and fold axes traversing the region in a north-eastern direction. Maximum development occurs in the Ain Dalla basin, a downthrown structural block south-west of the Bahariya oasis. Basement features present a dominant control on the complex's structural and sedimentological form. Despite many structural complications, Nubian sandstone likely constitutes a single hydrogeological system west of the Suez Gulf. To the east, on the Sinai peninsula, a second system might exist with some connection to the primary western system in the north. The main western system, extending into Libya and Sudan, consists of a multi-layered artesian basin where massive groundwater reserves accumulated, principally during pluvials of the Quaternary. Locally, carbonate rocks overlying the complex display karst features and are recharged by upwards leaks from the underlying major aquifer.[3] Fluvial and structural interpretations from 2007 show the desert in western Egypt was induced by fluvial action, including recently mapped alluvial fans. In central areas, braided channels are spatially aligned to a north-east structural trend, suggesting preferential water flow paths. Alluvial fans and structurally enclosed channels coincided to gentle slopes and optimal recharge conditions between 1 and 5%, indicating high groundwater potential. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) interpretations correlated with anomalies from groundwater in 383 wells, suggesting a connection between the spatial organization of fluvial and structural features with low-salinity groundwater, which exists adjacent to alluvial fans and the south-west reaches of structurally enclosed channels. Wells in the vicinity of structures contained low-salinity water.[4]

Derived soils

Nubian sandstone exposures in sub-humid, semi-arid, and arid conditions produce soil that is red-sandy but very different in other aspects. Only in sub-humid zones do these soils contain a moderately developed profile, including a textural B horizon lacking soluble salts and carbonates. In semi-arid and arid zones, profile differentiation is either weak or does not exist. In arid zones soils are shallow and contain carbonates, and soluble salts, including gypsum. The sole clay common to all Nubian sandstone parent materials is Kaolinite, which is the major clay mineral in sub-humid zone soil. In semi-arid soils smectite is a second major clay component. In arid zones small amounts of smectite and palygorskite accompany kaolinite. It is likely that smectite and palygorskite are products of pedogenic neoformation. Aeolian material was probably introduced into the silt and fine sand fractions from semi-arid and arid soils. It is also possible that some contamination of clay fractions occurred.[5]

Nubian Sandstone in Arabia

When in contact with Upper Cretaceous limestone, Nubian sandstone underlies the latter conformably. In Lebanon, Anti-Lebanon and Hermon it is underlaid by Jurassic limestone. Its upper strata is likely from the Lower or Middle Cretaceous age. However, Jurassic limestone is absent in southern areas. In Western Sinai, Nubian sandstone rests on Carboniferous limestone, and by the Dead Sea on Cambrian limestone: at Petra and other locations it rests unconformably on Crystalline rocks. While age calculation for Nubian sandstone is relatively simple in Lebanon, Anti-Lebanon and Hermon, it is much more complicated in Western Sinai and the Dead Sea. Since sandstone is assumed to form more rapidly than other rocks it is difficult to conceive that the 2,000 feet of sandstone in the southeastern Dead Sea was in the formative process from the Cambrian to the Cretaceous.


  Nubian Sandstone is most commonly brown or reddish, but in places it shows a much wider variety of color. The ancient temples and tombs in Petra were carved from this rock. In certain places it is extremely friable, and in others compact and hard. Sand in the Arabian deserts was primarily derived from it, carried by prevailing western winds. Where it is covered by a sheet of eruptive rock (charrah), it is protected from erosion. Nubian sandstone frequently includes strata of clay and shale and thin seams of coal or lignite. This indicates that it was deposited in seas that were relatively shallow at the time.


The term ״Nubia sandstone״ was first introduced to the Egyptian stratigraphy by Joseph Russegger in 1937, who used the term "Sandstein von Nubien" to designate nonfossiliferous sandstone sections of Paleozoic or Mesozoic age. Russegger followed and studied this series of sandstone formations from the Sudan, Egypt, Nubia, and Arabia Petrsea.[6]

See also

  • Nubian Aquifer System
  • Arabian-Nubian Shield
  • Sedimentary rock
  • Shield
  • Craton
  • Platform
  • Basement
  • Platform basement


  1. ^ Issawi 1973, p.1433
  2. ^ El-Shazly 1982
  3. ^ A. Shata
  4. ^ El-Baz & El-Shazly, 2007
  5. ^ A. Singer 1974, p. 310
  6. ^ R. Tate pp. 404-406


  • B. Issawi, Review of Upper Cretaceous-Lower Tertiary Stratigraphy in central and southern Egypt. - American Association of Petrol. Geol. Bull., Vol. 56 No.8, 1973
  • El Shazly, Atomic Energy Establishment, Egypt 1982
  • A.A. Shata, Hydrogeology of the Great Nubian Sandstone Basin Desert Research Institute, Egypt 1982
  • Tate, Ralph, On the Age of the Nubian Sandstone: Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (1871); Vol. 27 No. 1-2
  • Essay and Maps: Groundwater Resources of the Nubian Aquifer System
  • El Sayed. A Study of Hydrogeological Conditions of the Nubian Sandstone Aguifer in the Area between Abu Simbel & Toschka, Western Desert, Egypt American Geophysical Union 2001
  • A.C. Seward: Leaves of Dicotyledons from Nubian sandstone of Egypt, Geological Survey, 1935.
  • El-Baz and El-Shazly, The Nubian Aquifer in Southwest Egypt: Hydrogeology Journal, Vol. 15 No. 1, 2007
  • Paleogeography & Paleomagnetism of the Nubian Sandstone Eastern Desert of Egypt: in the International Journal of Earth Sciences. Vol. 62, No. 1. 1973 ISSN:1437-3254
  • International Atomic Energy Agency: NSAS Project
  • A. Singer, Characteristics of Nubian Sandstone - Derived Soils European Journal of Soil Science 1974
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Nubian_Sandstone". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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