Provalata Cave (Republic of Macedonia) is a small but remarkable hypogenic cave, developed in Cambrian marbles by successive thermal carbonic and sulfuric acid speleogenesis. The cave has a thick partly corroded calcite crust, abundant gypsum deposits, with cupolas, ceiling and wall channels, feeders and replacement pockets as some of the most characteristic morphological features. Distribution of morphology and deposits suggest a hypogenic origin in two distinct speleogenetic phases: the first by thermal CO2 rich waters, the second by sulfuric acid dissolution, which were separated by complete infilling of cave passages with pyroclastic-derived clays. In the first phase of speleogenesis, cave passages were formed by dissolution along fractures due to cooling of rising carbonated thermal waters. These phreatic morphologies were later covered with a thick calcite crust deposited in a shallow phreatic environment. In Early Pleistocene the cave was completely filled with clays due to deposition of pyroclastic rocks in a lacustrine environment in the nearby Mariovo Basin. Mariovo Lake sediments were later incised by the Buturica River, which cut down into Cambrian marbles, creating its superimposed valley. Incision lowered the water table and allowed removal of the clay deposits in Provalata Cave. The second phase of speleogenesis started after introduction of H2S associated with rising thermal waters. Oxidation produced sulfuric acid, which rapidly dissolved first calcite crust, then marble host rock. Condensation-corrosion by sulfuric vapors replaced carbonate rock with gypsum producing replacement pockets as well as second generation of pockets and cupolas. The contact of sulfuric acid with the clay deposits formed alunite, jarosite, and natroalunite. 40Ar/39Ar dating gave maximum ages of 1.6 Ma (alunite) and 1.46 Ma (jarosite) for this last stage of speleogenesis, thus making it the second 40Ar/39Ar dating of a sulfuric cave in Europe (after Kraushöhle in Austria), and the first dated cave in the Republic of Macedonia.
Temovski, Marjan; Philippe Audra; Andrej Mihevc; Jorge E. Spangenberg; Victor Polyak; William McIntosh; and Jean-Yves Bigot.
Hypogenic origin of Provalata Cave, Republic of Macedonia: a distinct case of successive thermal carbonic and sulfuric acid speleogenesis.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol42/iss3/7