Calcretes of Olduvai Gorge and the Ndolanya Beds of northern Tanzania



Pedogenic calcretes are closely associated with Pliocene to Holocene wind-worked deposits of volcanic ash in the Olduvai and Ndolanya Beds of northern Tanzania. The typical profile with calcrete consists of an unconsolidated sediment layer, an underlying laminar calcrete, and a lowermost massive calcrete. The laminar calcrete is a relatively pure limestone, whereas massive calcrete is aeolian tuff cemented and replaced by calcite. An Olduvai calcrete profile can develop to a mature stage in only a few thousand years. Carbonatite ash was the dominant source for most of the calcite in the calcretes.

Replacement was a major process in formation of the massive calcretes, and oolitic textures have resulted from micrite replacing pelletoid clay coatings around sand grains. Phillipsite and possible other zeolites were extensively replaced in the massive calcretes. Replacement of clay by micrite in the Olduvai calcretes is accompanied by dissolution or leaching of phengitic illite and the formation of clay approaching the composition of halloysite or kaolinite. In the upper calcrete of the Ndolanya Beds, montmorillonite was altered to a kaolinite-type mineral and to dioctahedral chlorite. Authigenic dolomite, zeolite, and dawsonite in the Olduvai calcretes probably received at least some of their components from replaced materials.