Petrogenesis of basalt-trachyte lavas from Olmoti Crater, Tanzania

Godwin F. Mollel, Carl C. Swisher, Lindsay J. McHenry, Mark D. Feigenson, Michael J. Carr

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Olmoti Crater is part of the Plio-Pleistocene Ngorongoro Volcanic Highland (NVH) in northern Tanzania to the south of Gregory Rift. The Gregory Rift is part of the eastern branch of the East African Rift System (EARS) that stretches some 4000km from the Read Sea and Gulf of Aden in the north to the Zambezi River in Mozambique. Here, we (1) characterize the chemistry and mineral compositions of lavas from Olmoti Crater, (2) determine the age and duration of Olmoti volcanic activity through 40Ar/39Ar dating of Olmoti Crater wall lavas and (3) determine the genesis of Olmoti lavas and the relationship to other NVH and EARS volcanics and (4) their correlation with volcanics in the Olduvai and Laetoli stratigraphic sequences.Olmoti lavas collected from the lower part of the exposed crater wall section (OLS) range from basalt to trachyandesite whereas the upper part of the section (OUS) is trachytic. Petrography and major and trace element data reflect a very low degree partial melt origin for the Olmoti lavas, presumably of peridotite, followed by extensive fractionation. The 87Sr/86Sr data overlap whereas Nd and Pb isotope data are distinct between OLS and OUS samples. Interpretation of the isotope data suggests mixing of enriched mantle (EM I) with high-μ-like reservoirs, consistent with the model of Bell and Blenkinsop [Bell, K., Blenkinsop, J., 1987. Nd and Sr isotopic compositions of East African carbonatites: implications for mantle heterogeneity. Geology 5, 99-102] for East African carbonatite lavas. The isotope ratios are within the range of values defined by Oceanic Island Basalt (OIB) globally and moderate normalized Tb/Yb ratios (2.3-1.6) in these lavas suggest melting in the lithospheric mantle consistent with other studies in the region.40Ar/39Ar incremental-heating analyses of matrix and anorthoclase separates from Olmoti OLS and OUS lavas indicate that volcanic activity was short in duration, lasting ∼200kyr from 2.01±0.03Ma to 1.80±0.01Ma. The age of Olmoti activity overlaps with ages reported for Ngorongoro Caldera, implying contemporaneous activity of multiple NVH volcanic centers during part of the eruption interval.Olmoti is considered the source for the bulk of interbedded volcanics and volcaniclastic deposits that comprise much of the upper Bed I section of nearby Olduvai Gorge, and part of the Laetoli sequence, both known for their well preserved fossils and archaeological remains. Age and chemical data reported here are compatible with those derived from tephra and lava interbedded in Bed I at Olduvai Gorge and from the Olpiro Beds at Laetoli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-143
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of African Earth Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


  • Ar/Ar
  • Geochemistry
  • Nd isotopes
  • Pb isotopes
  • Petrology
  • Sr isotopes


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