Palaeosalinity and palaeoclimatic geochemical proxies (elements Ti, Mg, Al) vary with Milankovitch cyclicity (1.3 to 2.0 Ma), OGCP cores, Palaeolake Olduvai, Tanzania

Ian G. Stanistreet, John F. Boyle, Harald Stollhofen, Daniel M. Deocampo, Alan Deino, Lindsay J. McHenry, Nicholas Toth, Kathy Schick, Jackson K. Njau

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The analysis of geochemical palaeoclimate and palaeosalinity proxy elements Ti, Mg, and Al, derived from X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scans of Olduvai Beds I and II from Olduvai Gorge Coring Project (OGCP) borehole Cores 2A and 3A, provides a record of cyclic variation between ~1.3 Ma and ~2.0 Ma. The boreholes were drilled into the depocentre of the Olduvai Basin between Fifth and FLK Faults, where Palaeolake Olduvai was most persistent and deepest. During most of Bed I the lake was particularly deep and probably meromictic, preserving high TOC contents and commonly preserving fine lamination due to lack of bioturbation. Accretion rates were also high during Bed I, when rates of basinal subsidence were maximal due to crustal stretching, associated with basaltic volcanism, towards the end of bimodal Ngorongoro volcanism. Basaltic magma effusive activity is manifested as tuffs, scoriaceous layers and the Bed I Basalt complex lava flows. A magnesium anomaly is recorded in the claystone geochemistry at this time and deposition of dolomite and limestone beds are restricted to this syn-volcanic phase of basin history. During Bed I deposition, accretion rates (0.23 mm/yr) were high enough to permit recognition of cycles with an average periodicity of 22.3 kyr corresponding to the Earth's precession. Only the high values during the Mg anomaly are adequate for the application of the palaeosalinity proxy element ratio Mg/Al. But Ti counts provide a cyclic record in both Bed I and Bed II. During Bed II deposition, the accretion rate was much slower (0.058 mm/yr) and cyclicity averaged 40.4 kyr, corresponding to Earth's orbital obliquity. The Bed II interval corresponds to MIS Stages 40 to 64. Coincidence of precessional and obliquity minima at 1.8 Ma explains the superdrought that affected the basin at the time of emplacement of Tuff IF, when the lake was dried out. The aridity of the sequence containing Tuff IA is also associated with a precessional minimum. The cyclic record suggests that three Bed I Basalt flows were extruded at ~1.94 Ma during a time span lasting between 6 kyr and 15 kyr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109656
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - May 15 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Stone Age Institute organised and funded the Olduvai Gorge Coring Project (OGCP) and subsequent XRF scanning of the core with grants from the Kamen Foundation, the Gordon and Ann Getty Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the Fred Maytag Foundation, and Kay and Frank Woods. We would like to thank the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT), and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), the Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), and the Department of Antiquities for granting permission to conduct research in Tanzania. We thank Anders Noren and Kristina Brady and staff of the LacCore facility at University of Minnesota for all their support and accommodation of logging and sampling of the core. We are also very grateful to Erik Brown and Wally Lingwall of the Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota, Duluth, who undertook the XRF scanning of the core. We are grateful for the detailed comments of anonymous reviewers and editor Thomas Algeo, which have improved this manuscript out of all measure. We wish to acknowledge the analytical research of Patricia Berry, whose results from outcrops encouraged us to propose the XRF scanning of the Olduvai cores in the first place.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Basaltic magmatism
  • Obliquity
  • Olduvai Basin
  • Orbital forcing
  • Precession
  • XRF scanning

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • OGDP

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