Seventy-two oriented cores of 2.5 cm diameter have been drilled from seven bodies comprising part of a sequence of ignimbrite sheets interdigitated with basalts and basaltic andesites, in the Grand Canyon of the Rio Grande de Santiago of the Mexican Cordilleran Volcanic Province. Field observations and whole-rock analyses reveal two groups: an olivine basalt-high alumina basalt-basaltic andesite series, and a sequence of rhyolitic ignimbrite sheets, with some rhyolitic and obsidian lava flows. Crystal separation, partial melting of oceanic tholeiite, and simple mixing of basalt and oceanic sediments or granodiorite cannot acceptably explain the observed fractionation trends. The favored origin is a partial melting of a second or third stage product, such as a basalt or amphibolite enriched in K, Rb, Th, and Pb, relative to oceanic tholeiite. The observed fractionation trends are parallel to those of the andesite-dacites of the Mexico City region, but the Rio Grande de Santiago rocks have a systematically higher K2O/SiO2 ratio, which can be explained by a greater magma generation depth.
The paleomagnetic polarity sequence with decreasing age is R,R,N,R,R,N,N, providing easily measurable markers of high potential stratigraphic value. The mean virtual geomagnetic pole is not significantly different from the present spin axis. The potassium-argon analyses show that the sampled section contains two distinct volcanic episodes, from approximately t = 4.6 to 5.5. m.y. and from approximately t = 8.7 to 9.5 m.y. The polarities recorded by the youngest volcanic cycle are consistent with the predicted polarity time scale of Heirtzler and others (1968), while the older cycle polarities can be explained by minor modification of the predicted polarity scale, to include a short period of reversed polarity between 9.0 and 9.5 m.y., within the normal polarity anomaly 5 (t = 8.79 to 9.94 m.y.) of the time scale.