Most of the Tertiary section on Sierra Leone Rise off northwest Africa consists of chalk, marl, and limestone that show cyclic alterations of clay-rich and clay-poor beds about 20-60 cm thick. On the basis of biostratigraphic accumulation rates, the cycles in Oligocene and Miocene chalk have periods which average about 44,000 years, and those in Eocene siliceous limestone have periods of 4000-27,000 years. Several sections were sampled in detail to further define the cycles in terms of content of CaCO3, clay minerals, and relative abundances of calcareous nannofossils. Extending information gained by analyses of Pleistocene cores from the continental margin of northwest Africa to the Tertiary cycles on Sierra Leone Rise, both dilution by noncarbonate material and dissolution of CaCO3 could have contributed to the observed relative variations in clay and CaCO3. However, dissolution of CaCO3 as the main cause of the carbonate-clay cycles on the Sierra Leone Rise, rather than dilution by clay, is suggested by the large amount of change (several thousand percent) in terrigenous influx required to produce the observed variations in amount of clay and by the marked increase in abundance of dissolution-resistant discoasters relative to more easily dissolved coccoliths in low-carbonate parts of cycles. The main cause of dissolution of CaCO3 was shoaling of the carbonate compensation depth (CCD) during the early Neogene and climatically induced fluctuations in the thickness of Antarctic Bottom Water. ?? 1981.