A geochemical study was undertaken on basaltic lava flows intercalated with Oligocene to Miocene strata in the Sabzevar region, northern Iran, to examine their petrogenesis in a regional tectonic framework. The lavas are either aphyric or have phenocrysts and micro-phenocrysts of olivine and, to a lesser extent, clinopyroxene. Geochemically, the lavas are silica-undersaturated alkali basalts characterized by relatively high Mg# (~ 57–66) and Na2O/K2O (~ 2.0–6.7). They have distinctive trace element patterns characterized by strong rare-earth element fractionation, negative Nb–Ta and Zr-Hf anomalies and a positive Sr anomaly. Significant contamination by crustal materials either in the magma source or during ascent is ruled out on the basis of trace element compositions and Sr–Nd isotopic compositions (87Sr/86Sr = 0.7037–0.7048 and 143Nd/144Nd = 0.5128–0.5130), both of which differ markedly from continental crustal rocks. Phenocryst assemblage, analysis of multiple saturation points in lherzolite systems, and covariations of La/Yb with MgO of the studied lavas are generally consistent with an origin involving high-pressure fractionation of peridotite-derived melts. Primary magma compositions calculated by reversed fractionation of clinopyroxene and olivine for the relatively primitive samples (> 9 wt.% MgO), however, do not plot on the lherzolite multiple saturation points. Also, high-pressure fractionation predicts increasing trends of silica undersaturation and alkalinitiy with differentiation, and such trends are not indicated by the geochemical data. We suggest that the mixed trends shown by the data might be related to melt generation from both peridotite and silica-deficient pyroxenite sources, superimposed by variable degrees of high-pressure fractionation. The role of pyroxenite in magma genesis is indicated not only by the positive Sr anomaly shown by the trace element patterns, but also first-row transition element systematics of the studied lavas. The silica-deficient pyroxenites contributing to melt generation might have been transformed from mafic–ultramafic cumulates in subducted, lower oceanic crust, or might have formed in the lower crust or mantle lithosphere under continents during earlier magmatic episodes.
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