Integrated field study and radiometric dating in the Llama-Bambamarca area of the Western Cordillera of northern Peru have resulted in major revisions in the stratigraphic and structural relations and ages of thick sequences of Tertiary volcanic rocks and constrain the timing of compressive deformation, magmatic activity, and uplift. Rocks of the upper part of the Llama Formation yield K-Ar mineral dates of 54.8 ± 1.8 and 44.2 ± 1.2 Ma; altered volcanic rocks composing the lower part of the formation in the western part of the area may be older. Eocene K-Ar dates have been reported for several granitic plutons in the region, and other plutons of probable similar age intrude the Llama Formation and are overlain by upper Eocene strata. The pervasive alteration that affects much of the Llama Formation may be the result of large hydrothermal systems driven by a coeval, and presumably cogenetic, batholith. The Chota Formation, which is mostly volcaniclastic, has yielded ages of about 50 and 44 Ma. The Chota Formation thus does not predate the Llama Formation but rather is an eastern distal-facies equivalent of rhyolitic ash-flow sheets and dacitic volcanic rocks of the Llama Formation.
The major unconformity at the base of the Llama Formation reflects deformation during Late Cretaceous (Peruvian tectonic phase) and/or Paleocene (Incaic I) time. The time of Incaic II deformation is bracketed between the 44.2 ± 1.2 Ma date on the Llama Formation and the age of about 39 Ma of a thick ash-flow sheet that comprises the lower part of the unconformably overlying Huambos Formation. Dates on rocks postdating Incaic II tectonism in central Peru suggest that deformation had ceased by about 41 Ma. Incaic II tectonism in northern and central Peru appears to have been a short but intense compressive event that peaked about 43 m.y. ago. The Incaic II event is coeval with formation of the Hawaiian-Emperor bend and with a period of rapid convergence of the Nazca and South American plates and therefore may reflect a major plate change in lithospheric plate movement patterns.
A largely volcaniclastic sequence of early Miocene age shows that the early Neogene pulse of volcanic activity recognized throughout the Central Andes is represented in northern Peru. Beds of conglomerate within this sequence are probably the result of Quechua I tectonism, although the 23.2 ± 1.5 Ma date obtained on tuff from the unit appears somewhat older than the time of about 19 Ma recognized for Quechua I tectonism in central and southern Peru. Units of partly welded and unaltered ash-flow tuff that fill deeply incised paleovalleys have ages of about 8.2 and 11.4 Ma, showing that the Western Cordillera of northern Peru was uplifted before late Miocene time.