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U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Investigations Series I–2650

Prepared for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Geologic Map of the Thaumasia Region, Mars

By James M. Dohm, Kenneth L. Tanaka, and Trent M. Hare



The geology of the Thaumasia region (fig. 1, sheet 3) includes a wide array of rock materials, depositional and erosional landforms, and tectonic structures. The region is dominated by the Thaumasia plateau, which includes central high lava plains ringed by highly deformed highlands; the plateau may comprise the ancestral center of Tharsis tectonism (Frey, 1979; Plescia and Saunders, 1982). The extensive structural deformation of the map region, which is without parallel on Mars in both complexity and diversity, occurred largely throughout the Noachian and Hesperian periods (Tanaka and Davis, 1988; Scott and Dohm, 1990a). The deformation produced small and large extensional and contractional structures (fig. 2, sheet 3) that resulted from stresses related to the formation of Tharsis (Frey, 1979; Wise and others, 1979; Plescia and Saunders, 1982; Banerdt and others, 1982, 1992; Watters and Maxwell, 1986; Tanaka and Davis, 1988; Francis, 1988; Watters, 1993; Schultz and Tanaka, 1994), from magmatic-driven uplifts, such as at Syria Planum (Tanaka and Davis, 1988; Dohm and others, 1998; Dohm and Tanaka, 1999) and central Valles Marineris (Dohm and others, 1998, Dohm and Tanaka, 1999), and from the Argyre impact (Wilhelms, 1973; Scott and Tanaka, 1986). In addition, volcanic, eolian, and fluvial processes have highly modified older surfaces in the map region. Local volcanic and tectonic activity often accompanied episodes of valley formation. Our mapping depicts and describes the diverse terrains and complex geologic history of this unique ancient tectonic region of Mars.

The geologic (sheet 1), paleotectonic (sheet 2), and paleoerosional (sheet 3) maps of the Thaumasia region were compiled on a Viking 1:5,000,000-scale digital photomosaic base. The base is a combination of four quadrangles: the southeast part of Phoenicis Lacus (MC–17), most of the southern half of Coprates (MC–18), a large part of Thaumasia (MC–25), and the northwest margin of Argyre (MC–26). The medium-resolution Viking images used for mapping and base preparation also formed the basis of the 1:2,000,000 scale subquadrangle series. Earlier geologic maps of all or parts of the region include: (1) maps of the Phoenicis Lacus, Coprates, Thaumasia, and Argyre quadrangles at 1:5,000,000 scale based mainly on Mariner 9 images (respectively, Masursky and others, 1978; McCauley, 1978; McGill, 1978; and Hodges, 1980), (2) the global map of Mars at 1:25,000,000 (Scott and Carr, 1978) compiled largely from the 1:5,000,000 scale geologic maps, (3) maps showing lava flows in the Tharsis region at 1:2,000,000 scale compiled from Viking and Mariner 9 images (Scott, 1981; Scott and Tanaka, 1981a, b; Scott and others, 1981), (4) the map of the western equatorial region of Mars at 1:15,000,000 scale based on Viking images (Scott and Tanaka, 1986), and (5) the map of the Valles Marineris region at 1:2,000,000 scale compiled from Viking images (Witbeck and others, 1991). The previous maps have described the overall geology and geomorphology of the region but have not unraveled the detailed stratigraphy and complex evolution of this unique and geologically diverse martian province.

The main purpose of this comprehensive mapping project is to reconstruct the stratigraphic, structural, and erosional histories of the Thaumasia region. The region is the last major province of the Tharsis region to undergo detailed structural mapping using Viking images; its history is essential to documenting the overall tectonic history of Tharsis. Other provinces of Tharsis that have been structurally mapped include Syria Planum (Tanaka and Davis, 1988), Tempe Terra and Ulysses Patera (Scott and Dohm, 1990b), and Alba Patera (Tanaka, 1990). Another primary mapping objective is to determine the region's volcanic history and assess the relations among fault systems and volcanoes (Wise and others, 1979; Scott and Tanaka, 1980; Whitford-Stark, 1982; Scott and Dohm, 1990a). A secondary mapping objective is to determine the distribution and ages of valleys. In our study, we incorporated detailed photogeologic mapping, comprehensive crater statistics (table 1), and geologic, paleotectonic, and paleoerosional Geographic Information System (GIS) databases. Sheets 1–3 show geologic units, faults and other significant structures, and valleys, respectively.

To help unravel the complex geologic history of the Thaumasia region, we transferred the highly detailed geologic unit, paleotectonic, and paleoerosional information of sheets 1–3 into a multilayered GIS database for comparative analysis. The geologic information was transferred from hard copy into a digital format by scanning at 25 micron resolution on a drum scanner. The 2-bit scanned image was then converted to an x,y coordinate system using ARC/INFO's vectorization routine. The geologic unit, structural, and erosional data were transformed into the original map projection, Lambert Conformal. The average transformation root mean square error was 0.25 km (acceptable for the Thaumasia map base at 1:5,000,000 scale). After transformation, the features were properly attributed and tediously checked. Once digitized, the map data can be transformed into any map projection depending on the type of data analysis. For example, the equal-area sinusoidal projection was used for determining the precise area of geologic units (table 1).

In addition to the geologic map and its attendant stratigraphic section, correlation chart, and description of map units, we include text sections that clarify the histories and temporal, spatial, and causal relations of the various geologic units and landforms of the Thaumasia region. The geologic summary section defines the sequence of major geologic events.

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Last modified July 16, 2012
First posted January 8, 2004

For additional information:
Contact Astrogeology Research Program staff
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U.S. Geological Survey
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Flagstaff, AZ 86001

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Suggested citation:

Dohm, J.M., Tanaka, K.L., and Hare, T.M., 2001, Geologic map of the Thaumasia region, Mars: U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Investigations Series I–2650, 3 sheets. (Available at

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