The geology of gona, afar, ethiopia

Jay Quade, Naomi E. Levin, Scott W. Simpson, Robert Butler, William C. McIntosh, Sileshi Semaw, Lynnette Kleinsasser, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Paul Renne, Nelia Dunbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Deposits in the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project (GPRP) area in eastcentral Ethiopia span most of the last ∼6.4 m.y. and are among the longest and most complete paleoenvironmental and human fossil archives in East Africa. The 40 Ar/ 39 Ar and paleomagnetic dates and tephrostratigraphic correlations establish the time spans for the four formations present at Gona: the Adu-Asa (>6.4-5.2 Ma), Sagantole (>4.6-3.9 Ma), Hadar (3.8-2.9 Ma), and Busidima Formations (2.7 to <0.16 Ma). The volcano-sedimentary succession at Gona displays many classic tectono-sedimentary features of an evolving rift basin. The mixed volcanic and fluviolacustrine Adu-Asa Formation is the earliest expression of rifting at Gona, probably deposited in a small half-graben. The Sagantole and Hadar Formations were deposited in a much wave length larger half-graben bounded to the E-NE by an as-yet-unidentified normal fault. The Sagantole and Hadar Formations are both fluvial and lacustrine, reflecting periodic shallow impoundment of a low-gradient paleo-Awash River, perhaps by an accommodation zone north of the Ledi-Geraru project area. Starting at 2.9-2.7 Ma, the character of sedimentation changed dramatically throughout the Awash Valley as bed load coarsened and the meandering paleo-Awash River cyclically cut and filled. Unlike the Hadar Formation, the Busidima Formation thickens westward, suggesting deposition in a half-graben of the opposite polarity compared to Sagantole/Hadar time. Sedimentation rates decreased 5-fold, from 0.25 mm/yr in the Hadar Formation to 0.05 mm/yr in the Busidima Formation, perhaps in response to slowing extension rates and/or opening of the half-graben north of Gona.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
StatePublished - 2008


  • Adu-Asa
  • Busidima
  • Ethiopian Rift
  • Gona
  • Sagantole
  • Tephrostratigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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