Vindija Cave is a key archaeological site in central Europe and contains a 12 m-thick sequence of cave-mouth sediments spanning the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic. The cave is situated in northern Croatia and famous for its Neanderthal remains (e.g., the Neanderthal Genome Project has relied largely on bones from Vindija to sequence the DNA of our closest evolutionary relatives). Large parts of this clastic sediment succession are affected by cryoturbation, which complicates the stratigraphy at Vindija.
Nevertheless, stratigraphic integrity has been claimed for selected sediment sections, and the occurrence of Mousterian and Upper Palaeolithic artifacts and human remains in Level G1 (the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic interface) has been used as an argument for the spatial and temporal coexistence of modern humans and Homo neanderthalensis at Vindija Cave. Most of the existing chronological data (obtained by 14C and U-Th dating of bone) are too scattered and imprecise to resolve the contrasting interpretations of site integrity.
We obtained 10 OSL samples from the cave-mouth sediment succession at Vindija Cave, including 5 samples from the contested G complex to check the stratigraphic integrity of the deposit and improve the chronological control, especially at the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic interface. To achieve this aim, we take a two-pronged approach: (i) we measure De values for individual quartz grains using the single-aliquot regenerative-dose (SAR) procedure and (ii) generate mineral maps from sediment thin sections with a micron-scale resolution using electrone microprobe analysis as well as an ultra-fast automated mineralogy system (i.e. QEMSCAN; Meyer et al., 2013). This strategy allows us to investigate the existence of any post-depositional disturbance of the archaeological sediments and at the same time get a handle on the beta dose heterogeneity in these archaeological layers. The usage of an automated mineralogy system is novel in OSL dating and will inform our interpretation of the single-grain De distributions in order to obtain robust OSL chronology for this key Palaeolithic site.
Funded by the 7th Framework Program of the EU (Marie Curie IOF, grant GEOPAL-219944, Michael Meyer)
Collaborators: Richard G. Roberts and Zenobia Jacobs (both U. Wollongong, Australia); Croatian Academy of Science and Arts, Institute of Quaternary Palaeontology and Geology; Peter Tropper (U. Innsbruck, Austria); Peter Austin (CSIRO Process Science and Engineering, Australia Minerals Research Centre)