Ash layers from Deep Sea Drilling Project site 178 in the northeast Pacific Ocean have been dated by the 40Ar-39Ar stepwise heating technique to resolve published discrepancies concerning the length of time explosive volcanism has affected the eastern Aleutian arc and Alaskan Peninsula. The results of the investigation indicate that the record of ash-fall deposition at site 178 extends back at least 6.5 m.y. Assuming that 6.5 m.y. ago marks the onset of renewed calc-alkalic volcanism of the volcanic arc, proposed models of continuous and discontinuous motion between the Pacific and North American lithospheric plates can be evaluated. If appreciable time elapsed between the onset of subduction and the onset of arc volcanism, the 6.5-m.y. record of ash-fall deposition in the north-east Pacific is most compatible with models of continuous plate motion throughout late Cenozoic time.