Geochronology of the Turkana Depression of Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia

Francis H. Brown*, Ian Mcdougall

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    80 Citations (Scopus)


    Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary rocks in the Turkana Depression of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia rest on basement rocks that yield K/Ar cooling ages between 433 and 522 Ma. Proven Cretaceous strata are exposed in Lokitaung Gorge in northwest Kenya. Eocene basalts and rhyolites in Lokitaung Gorge, the Nabwal Hills, and at Kangamajoj, date between 34 and 36 Ma, recording the earliest volcanism in the region. Oligocene volcanic rocks, with associated fossiliferous sedimentary strata at Eragaleit, Nakwai, and Lokone, all west of Lake Turkana, are 23 to 28 Ma old, as is the Langaria Formation east of Lake Turkana. Lower and Middle Miocene volcanic and sedimentary sequences are present both east and west of Lake Turkana, where ages from 17.9 to 9.1 Ma have been measured at many levels. Upper Miocene strata are presently known only at Lothagam, with ages ranging from 7.4 to 6.5 Ma. Deposition of Pliocene strata of the Omo Group begins in the Omo-Turkana, Kerio, and South Turkana basins ~4.3 Ma ago and continues in parts of those basins until nearly the present time, but with some gaps. These strata are linked through volcanic ash correlations at many levels, as are Pleistocene strata of the Omo Group (principally the Shungura, Koobi Fora, and Nachukui formations). 40Ar/ 39Ar dates on many volcanic ash layers within the Omo Group, supplemented by K/Ar ages on intercalated basalts and paleomagnetic polarity stratigraphy, provide excellent age control from 4.2 to 0.75 Ma, although there is a gap in the record between ~1 Ma and 0.8 Ma. Members I to III of the Kibish Formation in the lower Omo Valley record deposition between 0.2 and 0.1 Ma ago; Member IV, correlative with the Galana Boi Formation, was deposited principally between 12 and 7 ka BP.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)217-227
    Number of pages11
    JournalEvolutionary Anthropology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


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