Bayesian age-depth modelling of Late Quaternary deposits from Wet and Blanche Caves, Naracoorte, South Australia: a framework for comparative faunal analyses
Macken, Amy Claire
Staff, Richard A
Reed, Elizabeth Helen
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Bayesian age-depth models were constructed for two Late Quaternary aged fossil-bearing sedimentary sequences from caves in south eastern South Australia. The deposits in Wet and Blanche Caves contain dense assemblages of vertebrate fossils, largely the result of owl pellet accumulation. While individually calibrated radiocarbon determinations from the fossil sequences have provided a chronology for their accumulation, there was limited capacity available with such data to (a) temporally constrain assemblages associated with different depositional units and layers within the two sites, (b) interpret the chronological relationships among successive units and layers and (c) correlate sedimentary units and layers of similar age between the two deposits. Here, Bayesian age-depth models were constructed in OxCal for the Wet and Blanche Cave sequences, incorporating the available radiocarbon data and stratigraphic information collected during their excavation. Despite the low precision of the age-depth models for Wet and Blanche Caves which results in part from there being only single radiocarbon determinations available for a number of units and layers, the models enabled the relationships within and between the two sites to be established. Of particular utility for future faunal analyses is quantification of the temporal relationship between strata from the two sites, where groups of individual layers from Blanche Cave were found to be temporally equivalent with the longer-duration units in Wet Cave. We suggest that the use of Phase modelling, as performed here, is useful for cave deposits that have complex depositional histories and even in such instances where, as is common for palaeontological sites, few radiocarbon data are collected relative to the time-spans of tens of millennia that are often represented by them.