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The >250-kyr Lake Chala record: A tephrostratotype correlating archaeological, palaeoenvironmental and volcanic sequences across eastern Africa

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  • C. Martin-Jones
  • C.S. Lane
  • M. Blaauw
  • D.F. Mark
  • D. Verschuren
  • T. Van der Meeren
  • M. Van Daele
  • H. Wynton
  • N. Blegen
  • M. Kisaka
  • M.J. Leng
  • P. Barker
Article number108476
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/02/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Quaternary Science Reviews
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date20/01/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Regional tephrostratigraphic frameworks connect palaeoclimate, archaeological and volcanological records preserved in soils or lake sediments via shared volcanic ash (tephra) layers. In eastern Africa, tracing of tephra isochrons between geoarchaeological sequences is an established chronostratigraphic approach. However, to date, few long tephra records exist from sites with continuous depositional sequences, such as lake sediments, which offer the potential to connect local and discontinuous sequences at the regional scale. Long lake sediment sequences may also capture more complete eruptive histories of understudied volcanic centres. Here, we present and date the tephrostratigraphic record of a >250,000-year (>250-kyr) continuous sediment sequence extracted from Lake Chala, a crater lake on the Kenya-Tanzania border near Mt Kilimanjaro. Single-grain glass major and minor element analyses of visible and six cryptotephra layers reveal compositions ranging from mafic foidites and basanites to more evolved tephri-phonolites, phonolites, trachytes and a single rhyolite. Of these, nine are correlated to scoria cone eruptions of neighbouring Mt Kilimanjaro or the Chyulu volcanic field ∼60 km to the north; seven are correlated to phonolitic eruptions of Mt Meru, ∼100 km to the west; and four to voluminous trachytic eruptions of Central Kenyan Rift (CKR) volcanoes located ∼350 km to the north. The only rhyolitic tephra layer, a cryptotephra, correlates to the 73.7-ka BP (before present, taken as 1950 CE) Younger Toba Tuff (YTT) from Sumatra. Two of the CKR tephra layers provide direct ties with terrestrial sequences relevant to Middle Stone Age archaeology of the eastern Lake Victoria basin in Kenya. Absolute age estimates obtained by direct 40Ar/39Ar dating of 10 tephra layers are combined with six 210Pb and 162 14C dates covering the last 25-kyr and the well-constrained known age of the YTT to build a first absolute chronology for the full Lake Chala sediment sequence. The uninterrupted >250-kyr Lake Chala sedimentary archive represents a unique tephrostratotype sequence for eastern Africa, optimising the chronological value of tephra correlations in regional palaeoenvironmental, archaeological and volcanological research. Further study of cryptotephra in the Lake Chala sequence and additional geochemical characterisation and dating of ancient volcanic eruptions from nearby and further afield may eventually produce a regionally connected and detailed tephrostratigraphic framework for eastern equatorial Africa.

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Export Date: 1 February 2024