Cave clastic sediments and implications for speleogenesis: New insights from the Mugnano Cave (Montagnola Senese, Northern Apennines, Italy)


Ivan Martini


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November 2011


The study of cave clastic sediments has been considered one of the hottest topics during the last years because of their importance in paleoclimatic reconstructions and archaeological surveys. This paper focuses on clastic deposits of the Mugnano Cave, a small cave located in the Siena district (Northern Apennines, Italy), showing unique features regarding the sedimentary fill, mostly made of grey-blue dolomitic silts. The sedimentary succession was investigated through a detailed sedimentological analysis aimed at a better understanding of sedimentary processes active during the deposition. The entire succession was subsequently reinterpreted through an allostratigraphic approach: the recognition of an important erosional surface, associated with a significant change in sedimentation, allowed the distinguishing of two main allounits labelled MG1 and MG2. Furthermore, the different kinds of sediments collected in the cave were analysed using the XRF and XRD techniques, in order to establish their chemical and mineralogical compositions. The integration of lithological, sedimentological, allostratigraphic and mineralogical data permits formulation of an interesting hypothesis about speleogenetic processes that influenced the cave, with particular reference to the processes capable of generating the underground space. In this context, most of the current available space results from a complex interplay between different processes: disintegration of a particular lithofacies of the bedrock, consequent production of sediments and deposition into a subterranean lake. These sediments were removed from the cave during some non-depositional and erosive phases, which led to a positive balance in the available space.


Speleogenesis, Cave Sediments, Phantomisation, Allostratigraphy, Northern Apennines

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