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Late Quaternary stratigraphy and geochronology of the western Killpecker Dunes, Wyoming, USA

  • James H. Mayer (a1) and Shannon A. Mahan (a2)


New stratigraphic and geochronologic data from the Killpecker Dunes in southwestern Wyoming facilitate a more precise understanding of the dune field’s history. Prior investigations suggested that evidence for late Pleistocene eolian activity in the dune field was lacking. However, luminescence ages from eolian sand of ∼15,000 yr, as well as Folsom (12,950–11,950 cal yr B.P.) and Agate Basin (12,600–10,700 cal yr) artifacts overlying eolian sand, indicate the dune field existed at least during the latest Pleistocene, with initial eolian sedimentation probably occurring under a dry periglacial climate. The period between ∼13,000 and 8900 cal yr B.P. was characterized by relatively slow eolian sedimentation concomitant with soil formation. Erosion occurred between ∼8182 and 6600 cal yr B.P. on the upwind region of the dune field, followed by relative stability and soil formation between ∼5900 and 2700 cal yr B.P. The first of at least two latest Holocene episodes of eolian sedimentation occurred between ∼2000 and 1500 yr, followed by a brief (∼500 yr) episode of soil formation; a second episode of sedimentation, occurring by at least ∼700 yr, may coincide with a hypothesized Medieval warm period. Recent stabilization of the western Killpecker Dunes likely occurred during the Little Ice Age (∼350–100 yr B.P.). The eolian chronology of the western Killpecker Dunes correlates reasonably well with those of other major dune fields in the Wyoming Basin, suggesting that dune field reactivation resulted primarily due to departures toward aridity during the late Quaternary. Similar to dune fields on the central Great Plains, dune fields in the Wyoming Basin have been active under a periglacial climate during the late Pleistocene, as well as under near-modern conditions during the latest Holocene.


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*Corresponding author.E-mail address: (J.H. Mayer).


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