Petrogenesis of Oligocene volcanic rocks of the Lake Tana area, Ethiopian large Igneous Province

Ayenachew Alemayhou Desta, Asfawossen Asrat, Minyahl Teferi Desta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Lake Tana area is located within a complex volcano-tectonic basin on the northwestern Ethiopian plateau. The basin is underlain by a thick succession of Oligocene transitional basalts and sub-alkaline rhyolites overlain in places, particularly south of the lake, by Quaternary alkaline to mildly transitional basalts, and dotted with Oligo-Miocene trachyte domes and plugs. This paper presents the results of integrated field, petrographic, and major and trace element geochemical studies of the Lake Tana area volcanic rocks, with particular emphasis on the Oligocene basalts and rhyolites. The studies reveal a clear petrogenetic link between the Oligocene basalts and rhyolites. The Oligocene basalts are: (1) plagioclase, olivine, and/or pyroxene phyric; (2) show an overall decreasing trend in MgO, Fe2O3, and CaO with silica; (3) have relatively low Mg#, Ni and Cr contents and high Nb/La and Nb/Yb ratios; and (4) show LREE enriched and generally flat HREE patterns. All these imply the origin of the Oligocene basalts by shallow-level fractional crystallization of an enriched magma sourced at the asthenospheric mantle. The Oligocene rhyolites: (1) are enriched in incompatible while depleted in compatible trace elements, P and Ti; (2) show a strong negative Eu anomaly; (3) contain appreciable amounts of plagioclase, apatite, and Fe-Ti oxides; and (4) show clear geochemical similarity with well-constrained rhyolites from the Large Igneous Province (LIP) of the northwestern Ethiopian plateau. Low-pressure fractional crystallization of mantle-derived basaltic magma in crustal magma chambers explains the origin of these rhyolites. Our study further shows that the Oligocene basalts and rhyolites are co-genetic and the felsic rocks of the Lake Tana area are related differentiates of the flood basalt volcanism in the northwestern Ethiopian plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1104-1123
Number of pages20
JournalActa Geochimica
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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