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New chronology for the southern Kalahari Group sediments with implications for sediment-cycle dynamics and early hominin occupation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Ari Matmon*
The Fredy & Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Edmond J. Safra Campus, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
Alan J. Hidy
The Fredy & Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Edmond J. Safra Campus, Jerusalem 91904, Israel Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA 94550, USA
Shlomy Vainer
The Fredy & Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Edmond J. Safra Campus, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
Onn Crouvi
Israel Geological Survey, 30 Malkhe Israel Street, Jerusalem 95501, Israel
David Fink
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, PMB1, Menai, NSW 2234, Australia
Yigal Erel
The Fredy & Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Edmond J. Safra Campus, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
Liora K. Horwitz
National Natural History Collections, Faculty of Life Science, The Hebrew University, Berman Building, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
Michael Chazan
Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, 19 Russell Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2S2, Canada
*Corresponding author.E-mail (A. Matmon).


Kalahari Group sediments accumulated in the Kalahari basin, which started forming during the breakup of Gondwana in the early Cretaceous. These sediments cover an extensive part of southern Africa and form a low-relief landscape. Current models assume that the Kalahari Group accumulated throughout the entire Cenozoic. However, chronology has been restricted to early–middle Cenozoic biostratigraphic correlations and to OSL dating of only the past ~ 300 ka. We present a new chronological framework that reveals a dynamic nature of sedimentation in the southern Kalahari. Cosmogenic burial ages obtained from a 55 m section of Kalahari Group sediments from the Mamatwan Mine, southern Kalahari, indicate that the majority of deposition at this location occurred rapidly at 1–1.2 Ma. This Pleistocene sequence overlies the Archaean basement, forming a significant hiatus that permits the possibility of many Phanerozoic cycles of deposition and erosion no longer preserved in the sedimentary record. Our data also establish the existence of a shallow early–middle Pleistocene water body that persisted for > 450 ka prior to this rapid period of deposition. Evidence from neighboring archeological excavations in southern Africa suggests an association of high-density hominin occupation with this water body.

University of Washington

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