Open Journal of Geology, 2013, 3, 22-24
doi:10.4236/ojg.2013.32B005 Published Online April 2013 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojg)
Orogenesis: Cause of Sedimentary Formations
Polytechnique School Engineer, Paris, France, Member of “La Société Géologique de France”
Experiments on stratification discussed here have revealed the mechanical nature of lamination as well as the role of
turbulent current as agent of stratification. They challenge Steno’s principle that superposed strata are successive sedi-
mentary layers. They show that relative chronology should not be referred to as “stages” but as “sequences” of series.
The rock formation studied by Lalomov shows that the duration of sedimentation could be considerably shorter than
indicated by the Geological Time Scale. The latter scale corresponds to large marine transgressions and regressions that
can result from the shift of polar axis following such major orogeneses as the Caledonian, Hercynian and Alpine.
Keywords: Stratification; Lamination; Turbulent Flow; Time of Sedimentation; Orogenesis
Much of sedimentology is based on Nicolas Steno’s
(1669) principle i.e. that sup erposition of strata leads to a
succession of sedimentary layers. However, some
stratification experiments discussed here call for ques-
tioning this principle.
As reported to the Académie des Sciences de Paris by
Professor George Millot, Berthault (1986, 1988) [2,3]
performed several lamination experiments (Figures 1
and 2). In a typical experiment, a sample of friable lami-
nated “Fontainebleau Sandstone” was crushed into sand
particles, which were then dropped into a flask. It was
observed that a laminatio n was i mmediately recon stitu ted
in the ensuing deposit. A reasonable explanation of the
latter is that sand is a hetero-granular powder, the me-
chanics of which is intermediate between solids and dis-
tinct liquids. It is well known that liquids stratify accord-
ing to their density. Moreover, compelling evidence by
McKee et al. (1967)  strongly suggests that the
graded-bedding of stratification results from turbulent
flow, the variable velocity of wh ich determining the suc-
cessive dep osit of part icles of di f ferent siz e s.
Figure 1. Sample of diatomite.
Further work by Julien et al. (1993), in which a
pump circulated sand-laden water in a flume, showed
that sand particles indeed deposited accordingly to the
velocity of the turbulent current.(Figures 3-5). The
sedimentary deposit consisted of superposed and juxta-
posed strata which prograded laterally in the direction of
Thus, the turbulent flow generates graded-bedding.
When the velocity of the current increases, it becomes
erosive, creating erosion surfaces in the deposit. When
the desiccation of sediments occurs, joints appear. These
results show that the current is an essential agent of
stratification, which has been overlooked in conventional
stratigraphy. In order to properly determine the genesis
of sedimentary rocks, modern experiments must include
the role of turbulent flow. Therefore, Steno’s principle
has to be critically reviewed in light of new experimental
Figure 2. Lamination from flowing of dry sediments.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OJG
G. BERTHAULT 23
Figure 3. Formation of graded beds.
Figure 4. Cross-sectional view of deposit.
Figure 5. Longitudinal view of deposit.
Golovinski and Walther’s law of sequence stratigraphy
(cf. Middleton, 1973)  states: “Only those facies and
facies areas can be superimposed primarily which can be
observed beside each other at the present time”. As
shown in Berthault (2002a, b) [7,8], the superposed and
juxtaposed facies constitute a sequence resulting from a
marine transgression or regression. A succession of se-
quences included between an initial transgression and a
final regression is a “series”.
The data from sequence stratigraphy and the afore-
mentioned experiments show that a series corresponds to
a period. Sedimentation, therefore, must be considered as
the basic reference of relative chronology instead of
2. How does the above Affect Absolute
Charles Lyell constructed a geological column, based
upon biological ‘revolutions’ and uniformitarian princi-
ples. This was disputed by Gohau (1990)  who wrote
“Time is measured by the duration of sedimentation, not
orogenesis and biological ‘revolutions’”.
The radioactive dating of eruptive rocks is based on
the phenomenon of spontaneous decay of a radioactive
element from a “parent” element into its “daughter” ele-
ment. A well-known example is uranium (the parent
element) which decays into lead (the daughter element).
By measuring the quantity of parent element and com-
paring it to the daughter element, the age of a lava rock
can be estimated. But radioactive decay exists in the liq-
uid magma, where gravity exerts a differential separation
between parents and daughters according to their density.
When the magma erupts on to the Earth’s surface, it so-
lidifies into rock. A sample taken from this rock could
therefore include unrelated parents and daughters. Moreover,
the respective quantity of daughter decay elements pro-
duced in the magma cannot be distinguished from those
produced in the rock. As a result, the age of the rock
cannot be determined confid ently. This is why a revision
of time based on duration of sedimentation is necessary.
A process to determine sedimentation duration is as
The “Lischtvan-Lebediev” (1959)  table gives the
critical velocity of current below which particles fall ac-
cording to their size and the depth of water. Thus, it is
possible, from the sizes of particles in a sedimentary rock
formation, to determine the velocities of the paleo-cur-
rents. These velocities, integrated into the formula of
sedimentary mechanics, give the sedimentary transport
capacity by units of time and volume. Dividing the vol-
ume of the formation under study by this capacity, the
time of sedimentation of the formation is obtained (H.A.
Einstein). Lalomov (2007)  used this technique to
estimate the sedimentation duration of various forma-
tions in Russia. In particular, Berthault et al. (2011) 
showed that Cambrian Ordovician sandstone in the St.
Petersburg region represents less than 0.05% of the time
attributed to it by the stratigraphic time scale.
This result of 0.05% does not take into account the
velocity of the erosive curr ents which created such rocks
as conglomerates. Experiments on sedimentary slabs
(sandstone, shale, limestone) were performed at the Saint
Petersburg Institute of Hydrology (Berthault et al., 2010)
. Erosion started wh en the velocity of current reached
27 m/s. Further experiments are envisioned which should
show the time of sedimentation to be faster.
Importantly, Marchal (1996) has demonstrated
that mountain orogenesis provoked a shift of the axis of
rotation of the Earth triggering large marine series. It is
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Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OJG
significant that, in the geological column since the Cam-
brian period, eighteen marine series, or systems, are in-
ter-bedded between nineteen orogeneses, which occurred
in different places around the Earth.
As reported in the Bulletin of the Museum of Natural
History of Paris (1996-1997), the North Pole in the Eo-
cene, before the Himalayan orogenesis, was off the
mouth of the river Ienissei in Siberia, by 72 degrees lati-
tude (cf. Marchal, 1996) . After the orogenesis, it
was near to its present position resulting in an eighteen
degree polar shift.
The direction of transgressions and regressions fol-
lowing each orogenesis corresponds to the succession of
resulting sequential facies, such as sandstone, shale and
limestone as seen from the surface of the deposit. An
example was given in Berthault (2004) . The Tonto
group is assigned to Cambrian. It proceeded from the
Cadomian orogenesis, at the beginning of the Cambrian;
and resulted from a transgression going from the Pacific
Ocean in the west to New Mexico in the east. Other di-
rections can be determined from other orogenesis which
occurred elsewhere around the Earth.
Contemporaneous marine fauna vary according to
depth, latitude, and longitude and such ecological diver-
sification exists in the geological column. The apparent
change of fossilized marine organisms from one series to
another following an orogenesis can result from different
fauna, transported by water flows from different loca-
tions resulting from successive orogeneses. What has
been attributed to biological change could be ecological
in nature explained by fauna coming from different oro-
geneses, taking into account th e short time of sedimenta-
In conclusion, a relationship can be established between
cause and effect. Orogenesis, which can result from pe-
riodic mantle plumes (Rampino & Prokoph, 2013) ,
causes shifting of the polar axes, which then leads to
consecutive marine series and sedimentary deposits. The
duration of the latter is much shorter than given by the
stratigraphic time scale and so calls for a serious revision
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