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Deep Springs Valley (DSV) is a hydrologically isolated valley between the White and Inyo mountains that is commonly excluded from regional paleohydrology and paleoclimatology. Previous studies showed that uplift of Deep Springs ridge (informal name) by the Deep Springs fault defeated streams crossing DSV and hydrologically isolated the valley sometime after eruption of the Pleistocene Bishop Tuff (0.772 Ma). Here, we present tephrochronology and clast counts that reaffirms interruption of the Pliocene–Pleistocene hydrology and formation of DSV during the Pleistocene. Paleontology and infrared stimulated luminescence (IRSL) dates indicate a freshwater lake inundated Deep Springs Valley from ca. 83–61 ka or during Late Pleistocene Marine Isotope Stages 5a (MIS 5a; ca. 82 ka peak) and 4 (MIS 4; ca. 71–57 ka). The age of pluvial Deep Springs Lake coincides with pluvial lakes in Owens Valley and Columbus Salt Marsh and documents greater effective precipitation in southwestern North America during MIS 5a and MIS 4. In addition, we hypothesize that Deep Springs Lake was a balanced-fill lake that overflowed into Eureka Valley via the Soldier Pass wind gap during MIS 5a and MIS 4. DSV hydrology has implications for dispersal and endemism of the Deep Springs black toad (Anaxyrus exsul).
Archaeologists have long subjected Clovis megafauna kill/scavenge sites to the highest level of scrutiny. In 1987, a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) was found in spatial association with a small artifact assemblage in Converse County, Wyoming. However, due to the small tool assemblage, limited nature of the excavations, and questions about the security of the association between the artifacts and mammoth remains, the site was never included in summaries of human-killed/scavenged megafauna in North America. Here we present the results of four field seasons of new excavations at the La Prele Mammoth site that confirm the presence of an associated cultural occupation based on geologic context, artifact attributes, spatial distributions, protein residue analysis, and lithic microwear analysis. This new work identified a more extensive cultural occupation including the presence of multiple discrete artifact clusters in close proximity to the mammoth bone bed. This study confirms the presence of a second Clovis mammoth kill/scavenge site in Wyoming and shows the value in revisiting proposed terminal Pleistocene kill/scavenge sites.
Thin loess deposits on the uplands of the southeastern Colorado Plateau have previously not been well studied. We sampled deposits and soils from trenches on Hatch Point (HP) mesa near Canyonlands National Park, Utah, and from two outcrops in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. At HP, the oldest buried unit yielded 2 optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages of 10,370 and 7555 yr; the middle unit yielded 10 OSL ages from 6220 to 1385 yr; and the youngest unit had a single age of 1740 yr. At Mesa Verde (MV), three loess units are preserved in the two outcrops we examined; 6 OSL ages range from 51 to 17 ka. At least one buried soil is present between two units with ages of about 50 and 40 ka. The ages of the loess units in both study areas correspond well with OSL-dated dune sands in Canyonlands National Park and with dune sands on Black Mesa, Arizona. Particle-size distribution combined with chemical and magnetic data indicate that HP loess was derived mostly from nearby sandstone sources with a small component of far-traveled atmospheric dust, whereas MV loess was sourced both from the nearby sandstone and the San Juan River and its tributaries.
The age of sand dunes in the Nebraska Sand Hills has been controversial, with some investigators suggesting a full-glacial age and others suggesting that they were last active in the late Holocene. New accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon ages of unaltered bison bones and organic-rich sediments suggest that eolian sand deposition occurred at least twice in the past 3000 14C yr B.P. in three widely separated localities and as many as three times in the past 800 14C yr at three other localities. These late Holocene episodes of eolian activity are probably the result of droughts more intense than the 1930s “Dust Bowl” period, based on independent Great Plains climate records from lake sediments and tree rings. However, new geochemical data indicate that the Nebraska Sand Hills are mineralogically mature. Eolian sands in Nebraska have lower K-feldspar (and K2O, Rb, and Ba) contents than most possible source sediments and lower K-feldspar contents than dunes of similar age in Colorado. The most likely explanation for mineralogical maturity is reduction of sand-sized K-feldspar to silt-sized particles via ballistic impacts due to strong winds over many cycles of eolian activity. Therefore, dunes of the Nebraska Sand Hills must have had a long history, probably extending over more than one glacial–interglacial cycle, and the potential for reactivation is high, with or without a future greenhouse warming.
Sand hills in the Savannah River valley in Jasper County (South Carolina, USA) are interpreted as the remnants of parabolic eolian dunes composed of sand derived from the Savannah River and stabilized by vegetation under prevailing climate conditions. Optically stimulated luminescence ages reveal that most of the dunes were active ca. 40 to 19 ka ago, coincident with the last glacial maximum (LGM) through early deglaciation. Modern surface winds are not sufficient for sustained eolian sand transport. When the dunes were active, winds blew at velocities of at least 4 m/s from west to east, and some vegetation was present. The ratio of annual precipitation to potential evapotranspiration (P:PE) was less than the modern ratio of 1.23 and may have been < 0.30, caused by stronger winds (which would have resulted in greater evaporation) and/or reduced precipitation. The Savannah River dunes are part of a larger assemblage of eolian dunes that were active in the eastern United States during and immediately after the LGM, suggesting that eolian sediment behavior in this region has been controlled by regional forcing mechanisms during the Quaternary.
Loess accumulated on a Bull Lake outwash terrace of Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 6 (MIS 6) age in southern Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The 9 m section displays eight intervals of loess deposition (Loess 1 to Loess 8, oldest), each followed by soil development. Our age-depth model is constrained by thermoluminescence, meteoric 10Be accumulation in soils, and cosmogenic 10Be surface exposure ages. We use particle size, geochemical, mineral-magnetic, and clay mineralogical data to interpret loess sources and pedogenesis. Deposition of MIS 6 loess was followed by a tripartite soil/thin loess complex (Soils 8, 7, and 6) apparently reflecting the large climatic oscillations of MIS 5. Soil 8 (MIS 5e) shows the strongest development. Loess 5 accumulated during a glacial interval (~ 76–69 ka; MIS 4) followed by soil development under conditions wetter and probably colder than present. Deposition of thick Loess 3 (~ 43–51 ka, MIS 3) was followed by soil development comparable with that observed in Soil 1. Loess 1 (MIS 2) accumulated during the Pinedale glaciation and was followed by development of Soil 1 under a semiarid climate. This record of alternating loess deposition and soil development is compatible with the history of Yellowstone vegetation and the glacial flour record from the Sierra Nevada.
The Outer Banks barrier islands of North Carolina, USA, contain a geologic record of inlet activity that extends from ca. 2200 cal yr BP to the present, and can be used as a proxy for storm activity. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating (26 samples) of inlet-fill and flood tide delta deposits, recognized in cores and geophysical data, provides the basis for understanding the chronology of storm impacts and comparison to other paleoclimate proxy data. OSL ages of historical inlet fill compare favorably to historical documentation of inlet activity, providing confidence in the technique. Comparison suggests that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) were both characterized by elevated storm conditions as indicated by much greater inlet activity relative to today. Given present understanding of atmospheric circulation patterns and sea-surface temperatures during the MWP and LIA, we suggest that increased inlet activity during the MWP responded to intensified hurricane impacts, while elevated inlet activity during the LIA was in response to increased nor'easter activity. A general decrease in storminess at mid-latitudes in the North Atlantic over the last 300 yr has allowed the system to evolve into a more continuous barrier with few inlets.
The age of the Great Sand Dunes has been debated for nearly 150 yr. Seven ages ranging from Miocene to late Holocene have been proposed for them. This paper presents new information–chiefly subsurface stratigraphic data, OSL dates, and geomorphic evidence–that indicates that the Great Sand Dunes began to form in the latter part of the middle Pleistocene. The dunes overlie a thick wedge of piedmont-slope deposits, which in turn overlies sediment of Lake Alamosa, a paleolake that began to drain about 440 ka. The wedge of piedmont-slope deposits extends westward for at least 23 km and is as much as 60 m thick at a distance of 10 km from the Sangre de Cristo Range. Ostracodes from one well indicate that the eastern shoreline of Lake Alamosa extended to within 4.3 km of where the Great Sand Dunes eventually formed. The time represented by the wedge of piedmont-slope deposits is not known exactly, but the wedge post-dates 440 ka and was in place prior to 130 ka because by then the dunes overlying it were sufficiently close and tall enough to obstruct streams draining from the Sangre de Cristo Range.
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.
The Ziegler Reservoir fossil site near Snowmass Village, Colorado (USA), provides a unique opportunity to reconstruct high-altitude paleoenvironmental conditions in the Rocky Mountains during the Last Interglacial Period. We used four different techniques to establish a chronological framework for the site. Radiocarbon dating of lake organics, bone collagen, and shell carbonate, and in situ cosmogenic 10Be and 26Al ages on a boulder on the crest of a moraine that impounded the lake suggest that the ages of the sediments that hosted the fossils are between ~140 ka and >45 ka. Uranium-series ages of vertebrate remains generally fall within these bounds, but extremely low uranium concentrations and evidence of open-system behavior limit their utility. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages (n = 18) obtained from fine-grained quartz maintain stratigraphic order, were replicable, and provide reliable ages for the lake sediments. Analysis of the equivalent dose (DE) dispersion of the OSL samples showed that the sediments were fully bleached prior to deposition and low scatter suggests that eolian processes were likely the dominant transport mechanism for fine-grained sediments into the lake. The resulting ages show that the fossil-bearing sediments span the latest part of Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 6, all of MIS 5 and MIS 4, and the earliest part of MIS 3.
Accurate reconstruction of the paleo-Mojave River and pluvial lake (Harper, Manix, Cronese, and Mojave) system of southern California is critical to understanding paleoclimate and the North American polar jet stream position over the last 500 ka. Previous studies inferred a polar jet stream south of 35°N at 18 ka and at ~ 40°N at 17–14 ka. Highstand sediments of Harper Lake, the upstream-most pluvial lake along the Mojave River, have yielded uncalibrated radiocarbon ages ranging from 24,000 to > 30,000 14C yr BP. Based on geologic mapping, radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence dating, we infer a ~ 45–40 ka age for the Harper Lake highstand sediments. Combining the Harper Lake highstand with other Great Basin pluvial lake/spring and marine climate records, we infer that the North American polar jet stream was south of 35°N about 45–40 ka, but shifted to 40°N by ~ 35 ka. Ostracodes (Limnocythere ceriotuberosa) from Harper Lake highstand sediments are consistent with an alkaline lake environment that received seasonal inflow from the Mojave River, thus confirming the lake was fed by the Mojave River. The ~ 45–40 ka highstand at Harper Lake coincides with a shallowing interval at downstream Lake Manix.
Eolian deposition on the semiarid southern Colorado Plateau has been attributed to episodic aridity during the Quaternary Period. However, OSL ages from three topographically controlled (e.g. falling) dunes on Black Mesa in northeastern Arizona indicate that eolian sediments there were deposited in deep tributary valleys as early as 35–30 ka, with most sand deposited before 20 ka. In contrast, the oldest OSL ages for sand sheets fall within the Pleistocene-Holocene climatic transition (~ 12–8 ka). Thus most eolian sediment accumulated on Black Mesa under climatic conditions that were in general cooler, moister, and more variable than today, not more arid, pointing to a considerable increase in sediment supply.
Geochemical and geomorphic data from dune fields in southwestern Nebraska provide new evidence that the Nebraska Sand Hills once migrated across the North and South Platte rivers and dammed the largest tributary system to the Missouri River. The Lincoln County and Imperial dune fields, which lie downwind of the South Platte River, have compositions intermediate between the Nebraska Sand Hills (quartz-rich) and northeastern Colorado dunes (K-feldspar-rich). The most likely explanation for the intermediate composition is that the Lincoln County and Imperial dunes are derived in part from the Nebraska Sand Hills and in part from the South Platte River. The only mechanism by which the Nebraska Sand Hills could have migrated this far south is by complete infilling of what were probably perennially dry North Platte and South Platte river valleys. Such a series of events would have required an extended drought, both for activation of eolian sand and decreased discharges in the Platte River system. A nearby major tributary of the North Platte River is postulated to have been blocked by eolian sand about 12,000 14C yr B.P. We propose that an eolian sand dam across the Plattes was constructed at about this same time.
Luminescence ages from a variety of coastal features on the North Carolina Coastal Plain provide age control for shoreline formation and relative sea-level position during the late Pleistocene. A series of paleoshoreline ridges, dating to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5a and MIS 3 have been defined. The Kitty Hawk beach ridges, on the modern Outer Banks, yield ages of 3 to 2 ka. Oxygen-isotope data are used to place these deposits in the context of global climate and sea-level change. The occurrence of MIS 5a and MIS 3 shorelines suggests that glacio-isostatic adjustment (GIA) of the study area is large (ca. 22 to 26 m), as suggested and modeled by other workers, and/or MIS 3 sea level was briefly higher than suggested by some coral reef studies. Correcting the shoreline elevations for GIA brings their elevation in line with other sea-level indicators. The age of the Kitty Hawk beach ridges places the Holocene shoreline well west of its present location at ca. 3 to 2 ka. The age of shoreline progradation is consistent with the ages of other beach ridge complexes in the southeast USA, suggesting some regionally contemporaneous forcing mechanism.
In North America, terrestrial records of biodiversity and climate change that span Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 are rare. Where found, they provide insight into how the coupling of the ocean–atmosphere system is manifested in biotic and environmental records and how the biosphere responds to climate change. In 2010–2011, construction at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado (USA) revealed a nearly continuous, lacustrine/wetland sedimentary sequence that preserved evidence of past plant communities between ~140 and 55 ka, including all of MIS 5. At an elevation of 2705 m, the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site also contained thousands of well-preserved bones of late Pleistocene megafauna, including mastodons, mammoths, ground sloths, horses, camels, deer, bison, black bear, coyotes, and bighorn sheep. In addition, the site contained more than 26,000 bones from at least 30 species of small animals including salamanders, otters, muskrats, minks, rabbits, beavers, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, and birds. The combination of macro- and micro-vertebrates, invertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic plant macrofossils, a detailed pollen record, and a robust, directly dated stratigraphic framework shows that high-elevation ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are climatically sensitive and varied dramatically throughout MIS 5.
The Carolina Sandhills is a physiographic region of the Atlantic Coastal Plain province in the southeastern United States. In Chesterfield County (South Carolina), the surficial sand of this region is the Pinehurst Formation, which is interpreted as eolian sand derived from the underlying Cretaceous Middendorf Formation. This sand has yielded three clusters of optically stimulated luminescence ages: (1) 75 to 37 thousand years ago (ka), coincident with growth of the Laurentide Ice Sheet; (2) 28 to 18 ka, coincident with the last glacial maximum (LGM); and (3) 12 to 6 ka, mostly coincident with the Younger Dryas through final collapse of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Relict dune morphologies are consistent with winds from the west or northwest, coincident with modern and inferred LGM January wind directions. Sand sheets are more common than dunes because of effects of coarse grain size (mean range: 0.35-0.59 mm) and vegetation. The coarse grain size would have required LGM wind velocities of at least 4-6 m/sec, accounting for effects of colder air temperatures on eolian sand transport. The eolian interpretation of the Carolina Sandhills is consistent with other evidence for eolian activity in the southeastern United States during the last glaciation.
The skeletal remains of several Native Americans were recovered in an eroded state from a creek bank in northeastern New Mexico. Subsequently stored in a nearby museum, the remains became lost for almost 36 years. In a recent effort to repatriate the remains, it was necessary to fit them into a cultural chronology in order to determine the appropriate tribe(s) for consultation pursuant to the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Because the remains were found in an eroded context with no artifacts or funerary objects, their age was unknown. Having been asked to avoid destructive dating methods such as radiocarbon dating, the authors used Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to date the sediments embedded in the cranium. The OSL analyses yielded reliable dates between A.D. 1415 and A.D. 1495. Accordingly, we conclude that the remains were interred somewhat earlier than A.D. 1415, but no later than A.D. 1495. We believe the remains are from individuals ancestral to the Ute Mouache Band, which is now being contacted for repatriation efforts. Not only do our methods contribute to the immediate repatriation efforts, they provide archaeologists with a versatile, non-destructive, numerical dating method that can be used in many burial contexts.
Luminescence dating provides a direct age estimate of the time of last exposure of quartz or feldspar minerals to light or heat and has been successfully applied to deposits, rock surfaces, and fired materials in a number of archaeological and geological settings. Sampling strategies are diverse and can be customized depending on local circumstances, although all sediment samples need to include a light-safe sample and material for dose-rate determination. The accuracy and precision of luminescence dating results are directly related to the type and quality of the material sampled and sample collection methods in the field. Selection of target material for dating should include considerations of adequacy of resetting of the luminescence signal (optical and thermal bleaching), the ability to characterize the radioactive environment surrounding the sample (dose rate), and the lack of evidence for post-depositional mixing (bioturbation in soils and sediment). Sample strategies for collection of samples from sedimentary settings and fired materials are discussed. This paper should be used as a guide for luminescence sampling and is meant to provide essential background information on how to properly collect samples and on the types of materials suitable for luminescence dating.
Small isolated dune fields in the northern Mojave Desert are important centers of biodiversity and archaeological occupation sites. Currently dunes at Ash Meadows, Nevada, are stabilized by vegetation and are experiencing erosion of their upwind margins, indicating a negative sediment budget. New OSL ages from dunes at Ash Meadows indicate continuous eolian accumulation from 1.5 to 0.8 ka, with further accumulation around 0.2 ka. Prior studies (e.g., Mehringer and Warren, 1976) indicate periods of dune accumulation prior to 3.3 ka; 1.9–1 ka; and after 0.9 ka. These periods of eolian accumulation are largely synchronous with those identified elsewhere in the Mojave Desert. The composition of the Ash Meadows dunes indicates their derivation from regional fluvial sources, most likely during periods when axial washes were active as a result of enhanced winter precipitation.
The Angus Mammoth site in south-central Nebraska has been controversial since its discovery in 1931 when a fluted artifact was reported to be associated with the mammoth. For nearly 80 years it has not been known if Angus was a paleontological site predating the human occupation of North America as has been asserted by some geologists and paleontologists, or an archaeological site dating to the late Pleistocene as has been advocated by some archaeologists. Geomorphic study and luminescence dating have finally solved the problem after nearly eight decades. Although microwear and technological analyses have determined that the Angus biface is an authentic artifact, TL and IRSL dates have shown that the matrix above the mammoth is much too old for a mammoth/fluted point association to be valid.