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The Celebes Molasse in Sulawesi, Indonesia

Supervisors: Robert Hall and Ian Watkinson

Project Description
The Celebes Molasse is the informal name given to a series of Neogene sedimentary
rocks that are widespread across Sulawesi (Sarasin & Sarasin 1901; van Bemmelen
1949) and dominated by conglomerates, sandstones, and mudstones with limestone
intercalations (e.g. Surono & Sukarna 1996; van Leeuwen et al. 2007; Cottam et al.
2011). They have been interpreted as deposits of coastal alluvial and marginal marine
settings close to rapidly uplifting and eroding mountains. The Celebes Molasse has often
been interpreted as the product of a Miocene collision (Kndig 1956). More recently it
has been suggested to be diachronous across Sulawesi, perhaps representing several
tectonic events (Hall & Wilson 2000). In Central and East Sulawesi these sediments
probably reflect rapid uplift and subsidence associated with extensional unroofing
resulting from subduction rollback.
The Celebes Molasse is not well described or dated and its environment of deposition
may vary from place to place. Field observations show its provenance is varied and
detrital material includes ophiolitic, deep continental crustal, and recycled sedimentary
rocks of diverse type and age. Little is known about the palaeogeography of Sulawesi for
much of the Neogene. This project aims to improve dating of the Celebes Molasse,
provide a modern stratigraphic framework, identify its provenance, and provide a
detailed palaeogeography of the island during the Neogene. This will provide the basis
for an improved understanding of the tectonic history of Sulawesi.
The project will involve extensive and challenging fieldwork in Sulawesi, image
interpretation, biostratigraphic dating studies, and possibly thermochronology work at
Royal Holloway and elsewhere. The student will join an active research group working in
SE Asia based at Royal Holloway which includes several PhD and MSc students
working on a wide range of field-based projects.
This is one of several PhD studentships open to UK/EC students being advertised by the
SE Asia Research Group starting in 2012. At least one of these projects will be funded,
and there is a high probability that more will be supported. Full funding for the projects
that are chosen to begin in 2012, including fieldwork costs, will be available from the SE
Asia Research Group (
Cottam, M.A., Hall, R., Forster, M. & Boudagher Fadel, M. 2011. Basement character
and basin formation in Gorontalo Bay, Sulawesi, Indonesia: New observations from
the Togian Islands. In: Hall, R., Cottam, M. A. & Wilson, M. E. J. (Eds.), The SE Asian
Gateway: History and Tectonics of the Australia-Asia collision. Geological Society of
London Special Publication, 355, 177-202.
Hall, R. & Wilson, M.E.J. 2000. Neogene sutures in eastern Indonesia. Journal of Asian
Earth Sciences, 18, 787-814.

Kndig , E. 1956. Geology and ophiolite problems of East Celebes. Verhandelingen

Koninklijk Nederlands Geologisch en Mijnbouwkundig Genootschap, Geologische
Serie, 16, 210235.
Sarasin, P. & Sarasin, S. 1901. Entwurf einer geografisch-geologischen beschreibung
der Insel Celebes. Wiesbaden, Deutschland.
Surono & Sukarna, D. 1996. Sedimentology of the Sulawesi molasse in relation to
Neogene tectonics, Kendari area, eastern Indonesia. In: Proceedings of the 6th
International Congress of Pacific Neogene Stratigraphy and IGCP355, Kyoto Institute
of Natural History, 57-72.
van Bemmelen, R.W. 1949. The Geology of Indonesia. Government Printing Office,
Nijhoff, The Hague, 732 pp.
van Leeuwen, T., Allen, C., Kadarusman, A. Elburg, E., Palin, J.M., Muhardjo &
Suwijanto. 2007. Petrologic, isotopic, and radiometric age constraints on the origin
and tectonic history of the Malino Metamorphic Complex, NW Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 29, 751777.