We investigated paleolimnological records from a series of river deltas around the northeastern rim of Lake Tanganyika, East Africa (Tanzania and Burundi) in order to understand the history of anthropogenic activity in the lake's catchment over the last several centuries, and to determine the impact of these activities on the biodiversity of littoral and sublittoral lake communities. Sediment pollution caused by increased rates of soil erosion in deforested watersheds has caused significant changes in aquatic communities along much of the lake's shoreline. We analyzed the effects of sediment discharge on biodiversity around six deltas or delta complexes on the east coast of Lake Tanganyika: the Lubulungu River delta, Kabesi River delta, Nyasanga/Kahama River deltas, and Mwamgongo River delta in Tanzania; and the Nyamuseni River delta and Karonge/Kirasa River deltas in Burundi. Collectively, these deltas and their associated rivers were chosen to represent a spectrum of drainage-basin sizes and disturbance levels. By comparing deltas that are similar in watershed attributes (other than disturbance levels), our goal was to explore a series of historical "experiments" at the watershed scale, with which we could more clearly evaluate hypotheses of land use or other effects on nearshore ecosystems. Here we discuss these deltas, their geologic and physiographic characteristics, and the field procedures used for coring and sampling the deltas, and various indicators of anthropogenic impact. ?? Springer 2005.