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Pluvial periods in Southern Arabia over the last 1.1 million-years

Pluvial periods in Southern Arabia over the last 1.1 million-years
Pluvial periods in Southern Arabia over the last 1.1 million-years
Past climates and environments experienced by the Saharo-Arabian desert belt are of prime importance for palaeoclimatic and palaeoanthropological research. On orbital timescales transformations of the desert into a grassland landscape in response to higher precipitation provided “windows of opportunity” for hominin dispersal from Africa into Eurasia. On long timescales, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions for the region are predominantly derived from marine sediments and available terrestrial records from the Arabian Peninsula are limited to 450 ka before present (BP). Here, we present a new stalagmite-based palaeoclimate record from Mukalla Cave in Yemen which extends back to ∼1.1 million years BP or Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 31, as determined by Uranium-lead dating. Stalagmite Y99 grew only during peak interglacial periods and warm substages back to ∼1.1 Ma. Stalagmite calcite oxygen isotope (δ18O) values show that every past interglacial humid period was wetter than the Holocene, a period in which large lakes formed in the now arid areas of southern Arabia. Carbon isotope (δ13C) values indicate habitable grassland environments developed during these pluvial periods. A total of 21 pluvial periods with precipitation of more than 300 mm yr−1 occurred since ∼1.1 Ma and thus numerous opportunities for hominin dispersals occurred throughout the Pleistocene. New determinations of hydrogen (δDFI) and oxygen (δ18OFI) isotopes in stalagmite fluid inclusion water demonstrates that enhanced precipitation in Southern Arabia was brought by the African and Indian Summer Monsoons. When combined with sub-annual calcite analysis of δ18O and δ13C, these data reveal a distinct wet (summer) and dry (winter) seasonality.
Arabia, Carbon-isotopes, Human dispersal, Middle east, Monsoon, Oxygen-isotopes, Pleistocene, Speleothems, Uranium-series dating, Water-isotopes
0277-3791
Nicholson, Samuel L.
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Pike, Alistair W.G.
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Hosfield, Rob
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Roberts, Nick
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Sahy, Diana
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Woodhead, Jon
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Cheng, Hai
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Edwards, R. Lawrence
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Affolter, Stéphane
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Leuenberger, Markus
e78e2447-2993-47e5-9b16-5602de217b69
Burns, Stephen J.
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Matter, Albert
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Fleitmann, Dominik
a4a68791-9be3-468f-b4f8-7cd9bd509f15
Nicholson, Samuel L.
639890bc-3caa-418c-8bb2-18a525a6dd85
Pike, Alistair W.G.
e8603e20-0a89-4d57-a294-247b983fc857
Hosfield, Rob
71589b3e-fdde-4e96-90a9-38b3a71b3c73
Roberts, Nick
643a3ea3-960f-4794-a499-09a3cdfcc49b
Sahy, Diana
7b517882-103e-43cd-b1b8-a8b3668947d6
Woodhead, Jon
d3392a2d-910e-4191-bf59-595946271912
Cheng, Hai
b665f0d0-acf2-4380-b1fc-85fffe44513d
Edwards, R. Lawrence
a2cd7e69-f5b2-4b81-b58d-9be36a316b93
Affolter, Stéphane
8b5fd621-62a2-4bf3-9142-33d432ea5f7d
Leuenberger, Markus
e78e2447-2993-47e5-9b16-5602de217b69
Burns, Stephen J.
2e52525d-a1fb-48b5-a983-782ac9a33b23
Matter, Albert
67b31ef6-0bf5-4a46-b789-5c7425fe0ecd
Fleitmann, Dominik
a4a68791-9be3-468f-b4f8-7cd9bd509f15

Nicholson, Samuel L., Pike, Alistair W.G., Hosfield, Rob, Roberts, Nick, Sahy, Diana, Woodhead, Jon, Cheng, Hai, Edwards, R. Lawrence, Affolter, Stéphane, Leuenberger, Markus, Burns, Stephen J., Matter, Albert and Fleitmann, Dominik (2020) Pluvial periods in Southern Arabia over the last 1.1 million-years. Quaternary Science Reviews, 229, [106112]. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.106112).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Past climates and environments experienced by the Saharo-Arabian desert belt are of prime importance for palaeoclimatic and palaeoanthropological research. On orbital timescales transformations of the desert into a grassland landscape in response to higher precipitation provided “windows of opportunity” for hominin dispersal from Africa into Eurasia. On long timescales, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions for the region are predominantly derived from marine sediments and available terrestrial records from the Arabian Peninsula are limited to 450 ka before present (BP). Here, we present a new stalagmite-based palaeoclimate record from Mukalla Cave in Yemen which extends back to ∼1.1 million years BP or Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 31, as determined by Uranium-lead dating. Stalagmite Y99 grew only during peak interglacial periods and warm substages back to ∼1.1 Ma. Stalagmite calcite oxygen isotope (δ18O) values show that every past interglacial humid period was wetter than the Holocene, a period in which large lakes formed in the now arid areas of southern Arabia. Carbon isotope (δ13C) values indicate habitable grassland environments developed during these pluvial periods. A total of 21 pluvial periods with precipitation of more than 300 mm yr−1 occurred since ∼1.1 Ma and thus numerous opportunities for hominin dispersals occurred throughout the Pleistocene. New determinations of hydrogen (δDFI) and oxygen (δ18OFI) isotopes in stalagmite fluid inclusion water demonstrates that enhanced precipitation in Southern Arabia was brought by the African and Indian Summer Monsoons. When combined with sub-annual calcite analysis of δ18O and δ13C, these data reveal a distinct wet (summer) and dry (winter) seasonality.

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More information

Published date: 1 February 2020
Keywords: Arabia, Carbon-isotopes, Human dispersal, Middle east, Monsoon, Oxygen-isotopes, Pleistocene, Speleothems, Uranium-series dating, Water-isotopes

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 447932
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/447932
ISSN: 0277-3791
PURE UUID: 96b691ac-fcdb-4127-b6fb-cc86a96e4b8f
ORCID for Alistair W.G. Pike: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-5610-8948

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 26 Mar 2021 17:31
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 02:59

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Contributors

Author: Samuel L. Nicholson
Author: Rob Hosfield
Author: Nick Roberts
Author: Diana Sahy
Author: Jon Woodhead
Author: Hai Cheng
Author: R. Lawrence Edwards
Author: Stéphane Affolter
Author: Markus Leuenberger
Author: Stephen J. Burns
Author: Albert Matter
Author: Dominik Fleitmann

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