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Shedding light on the timing of the largest Late Quaternary transgression of the Caspian Sea

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  • E. A. Butuzova
  • ,
  • R. N. Kurbanov
  • ,
  • N. A. Taratunina
  • ,
  • A. O. Makeev
  • ,
  • A. V. Rusakov
  • ,
  • M. P. Lebedeva
  • ,
  • A. S. Murray
  • T. A. Yanina

The Late Quaternary history of the Caspian Sea remains controversial. One of the major disagreements in this debate concerns the stratigraphic correlation of various deposits in the Caspian Basin. In this paper we identify and date, for the first time, the Enotaevka regression, lying between the two major phases of the largest Late Quaternary Caspian Sea transgression, the Khvalynian transgressive epoch, and provide a minimum estimate of sea level decrease during this regression. The River Volga is the major source of water to the Caspian; the Lower Volga region is unique in its record of palaeogeographic events, and this provides the opportunity to build a single stratigraphic and palaeogeographic history for the Pleistocene of Central Eurasia. Here we use luminescence to establish a new chronology for the largest Late Quaternary transgressive epoch of the Caspian Sea. The existing radiocarbon chronology does not allow the resolution of the two transgressive phases of this epoch (Early and Late Khvalynian). Based on clear palaeontological and geomorphological evidence, these must be very different in age, but shells associated with both transgressions gave very scattered ages of between 8 and 50 ka. This ambiguity has led to considerable discussion concerning the existence or otherwise of a deep Enotaevka regression phase between the two Khvalynian transgressions. Recently we have again identified these deposits at Kosika, on the right valley side of the Volga River. The new luminescence chronology described here, based on quartz OSL and K-feldspar pIRIR290 ages, allows us to reconstruct the complicated history of Late Quaternary sedimentation in the southern part of the Lower Volga valley. The Kosika section reflects the following major stages: (1) the earlier Khazarian transgressive epoch; (2) a decrease in the sea level with the development of a freshwater lake/lagoon in the Volga valley; and (3) the Khvalynian transgressive-regressive epoch, including both the Early and Late Khvalynian transgressive periods, and the intercalated Enotaevka regression. Sea level during the early stage of the Khvalynian transgression reached Kosika at about 23–22 ka (approx. −1 to −2 m asl). This event is of the same age as the “grey clay” strata at the base of the Leninsk section marine unit (Kurbanov et al., 2021), also formed at the beginning of the Early Khvalynian transgression. Around 15–14 ka the Khvalynian basin moved to a regressive stage, and in the northern part of the Lower Volga the top part of the well-known ‘Chocolate Clay’ accumulated. In the southern part of the valley marine accumulation stopped at about 12–13 ka. This allows us to reconstruct a decrease in Early Khvalynian basin sea level between 15–14 ka and 13–12 ka ago, of about ∼15 m. At the Kosika section sediments derived from the Enotayevka regression are visible as a weakly developed palaeosol with evidence of surficial erosion, and these sediments are now dated to 13–12 ka. At 8.6 ± 0.5 ka, during the period of the Mangyshlak regression, aeolian deflation processes reworked sediments deposited by immediately preceding Late Khvalynian transgression.

TidsskriftQuaternary Geochronology
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2022

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