Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2024-27
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2024-27
16 Apr 2024
 | 16 Apr 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Improving the age constraints on the archeological record in Scladina Cave (Belgium): new speleothem U-Th ages and paleoclimatological data

Hubert Vonhof, Sophie Verheyden, Dominique Bonjean, Stéphane Pirson, Michael Weber, Denis Scholz, John Hellstrom, Hai Cheng, Xue Jia, Kevin Di Modica, Gregory Abrams, Marjan van Nunen, Joost Ruiter, Michèlle van der Does, Daniel Böhl, and Jeroen van der Lubbe

Abstract. The sedimentary sequence in Scladina Cave (Belgium) is well-known for its rich Middle Paleolithic assemblages and its numerous faunal remains. Of particular interest is the presence of a nearly complete mandible of a Neandertal child. To place all these finds in the correct chronostratigraphic context, various dating techniques have been applied over the past decades. This resulted in a reasonably well-constrained age model, roughly spanning the last glacial cycle. Age constraints of the lower part of the Scladina sequence as well as from the underlying Sous-Saint-Paul Cave were however absent until now. Previous attempts to date several speleothem layers in Scladina Cave, using U-Th dating were only partly successful, presumably because diagenetic alteration of speleothem material compromised the ages. In the present study we re-assessed U-Th dating of various speleothem levels in Scladina Cave, applying state-of-the-art U-Th dating, and carefully selecting material that experienced little to no diagenetic alteration. The new results constitute a robust age framework for the Scladina sequence, which provides precisely dated stratigraphic anchor points that improve the previous age model. Furthermore, new U-Th analyses, for speleothems from the lower part of the Scladina sequence and from the Sous-Saint-Paul sequence, document Middle Pleistocene ages, making this one of the longer fossil-rich cave sedimentary sequences in NW Europe. The new data confirm that speleothem deposition predominantly took place in periods of warmer climate, while siliciclastic sediments characterize the colder intervals. New speleothem ages further suggest that the Neandertal mandible found in the sequence, and previously placed in Marine Isotope Stage 5a or 5b, could potentially be as old as Marine Isotope Stage 5d.

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Hubert Vonhof, Sophie Verheyden, Dominique Bonjean, Stéphane Pirson, Michael Weber, Denis Scholz, John Hellstrom, Hai Cheng, Xue Jia, Kevin Di Modica, Gregory Abrams, Marjan van Nunen, Joost Ruiter, Michèlle van der Does, Daniel Böhl, and Jeroen van der Lubbe

Status: open (until 11 Jun 2024)

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Hubert Vonhof, Sophie Verheyden, Dominique Bonjean, Stéphane Pirson, Michael Weber, Denis Scholz, John Hellstrom, Hai Cheng, Xue Jia, Kevin Di Modica, Gregory Abrams, Marjan van Nunen, Joost Ruiter, Michèlle van der Does, Daniel Böhl, and Jeroen van der Lubbe
Hubert Vonhof, Sophie Verheyden, Dominique Bonjean, Stéphane Pirson, Michael Weber, Denis Scholz, John Hellstrom, Hai Cheng, Xue Jia, Kevin Di Modica, Gregory Abrams, Marjan van Nunen, Joost Ruiter, Michèlle van der Does, Daniel Böhl, and Jeroen van der Lubbe

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Short summary
The sedimentary sequence in Scladina Cave (Belgium) is well-known for its rich archeological assemblages and its numerous faunal remains. Of particular interest is the presence of a nearly complete jaw bone of a Neandertal child. In this study, we present new Uranium-series ages of stalagmites from the archeological sequence which allow more precise dating of the archeological finds. One key result is that the Neandertal child may be slightly older than previously thought.