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Roter Kamm crater

Roter Kamm crater, Namibia
Roter Kamm crater / Landsat 7, USGS / NASA, public domain

WorldBlue  In short

The Roter Kamm crater (from German – "red ridge" crater) in the desolate sands of Namib Desert was created by a meteorite some 5 million years ago.

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GPS coordinates
27.7655 S 16.2895 E
Location, address
Africa, Namibia, Karas region, in the Namib Desert some 80 km north from Oranjemund
2500 m
130 m
˜ 4 – 5 million years

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail


This crater is located in Sperrgebiet – a restricted area of Namibia reserved for diamond mining. Geologists noticed this structure in the 1960s, and meteoritic origin was proposed already in 1965 (1). Few people entered this remote part of Namib Desert – only in 1986 and 1987 further research took place and the impact origin of the Roter Kamm crater was confirmed.

Roter Kamm crater in space radar image. The faint blue area around the crater might show the ejected rocks from the crater, now covered with sand, Namibia
Roter Kamm crater in space radar image. The faint blue area around the crater might show the ejected rocks from the crater, now covered with sand / Spaceborne Imaging Radar- C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR), Endeavour, 1994, public domain

Researchers in the 1990s proposed that this meteorite fell approximately 3.7 million years ago. More recent research from 2008 shows different results (2) – laser argon dating shows that the impact took place some 4 – 5 million years ago, in Pliocene.


Diameter of this crater is 2.5 km and depth (height difference between the highest part of its rim and deepest part of central part) – 130 m. Rims of the crater rise some 40 – 90 m above the surrounding plain but the interior is located some 50 m below the surrounding plain.

It is estimated that the crater is filled with at least a 100 m thick layer of sand. Only in some sectors in the ridges is exposed bedrock. Roter Kamm crater is degraded but nevertheless, it is one of the best visible impact craters on Earth.

Roter Kamm crater, oblique model based on landsat image. Vertical elevation exaggerated two times, Namibia
Roter Kamm crater, oblique model based on landsat image. Vertical elevation exaggerated two times / NASA World Wind, 2007, public domain

Meteorite here hit very old (Precambrian, 1.2 billion years) granitic gneiss – Namaqua Metamorphic Complex with some younger sedimentary rocks. There have been found no pieces of meteorite – most likely it has evaporated totally during the impact. Melted rocks contain traces of this chondritic meteorite.

Most ejecta is found to the northwest – west from the crater. This and the oblong shape of crater suggest that meteorite was falling from south-east.


  1. Dietz R. S., 1965. Roter Kamm, Southwest Africa – probable meteorite crater: Meteoritics, – 314.
  2. Lutz Hecht, Wolf Uwe Reimold, Sarah Sherlock, Roald Tagle, Christian Koeberl, Ralf-Thomas Schmitt. New impact-melt rock from the Roter Kamm impact structure, Namibia: Further constraints on impact age, melt rock chemistry, and projectile composition. Meteoritics & Planetary Science. Volume 43, Issue 7, pages 1201–1218, July 2008.

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