Stratigraphy and palaeoenvironment of Stajna Cave (southern Poland) with regard to habitation of the site by Neanderthals


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Geological Quarterly

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The Stajnia Cave is one of the most important archaeological sites due to the finds of the first remains of Neanderthals in Poland, and several tens of thousands of flint artefacts from the Middle Palaeolithic. Based on geological, geochemical, palaeobotanical, palaeozoological, archaeological and isotope analyses, coupled with absolute age determinations (OSL, U-Th and C14), 15 lithostratigraphic layers were distinguished and palaeoenvironmental conditions during the sedimentation of these beds were determined. The cave loams accumulated through weathering, aeolian and fluvial processes. Their age may be correlated with an interval from the Early Glacial to the Late Pleniglacial of the Visulian (Weichselian) Glaciation. Archaeological relics related to the Neanderthals have been discovered in layer D with an absolute age of about 52,000–45,000 years BP and correlated with MIS 3 – the Middle Plenivistulian (Interplenivistulian). Climate oscillations in the Vistulian are reflected by the type of the sediments and their physical-chemical features, allowing determining warmer interstadial and colder stadial periods. Generally, the climate was cold, characteristic of tundra areas with a typical vegetation and fauna, and with the mean temperature of the warmest month not exceeding 12°C. Based on multi-proxy studies it can be concluded that from layer E1 upwards, the climate conditions became progressively drier. At that time, the climate was cold with continental features enhancing tundra domination. This conclusion is confirmed by palaeontological investigations and the record of stable oxygen isotopes in the teeth of reindeer. The studies have also indicated seasonal migration of reindeer on the tundra that surrounded the cave. Probably, short-term slight climate warmings occurred during the Middle Plenivistulian (Interplenivistulian).

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