A radical reassessment of the stratigraphy, palaeoenvironmental processes and dating of the Middle Pleistocene deposits at Schöningen, northern Germany

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentations (poster etc.)Research

Charles Turner - Coauthor

Brigitte Urban - Speaker

Thijs van Kolfschoten - Coauthor

    Middle Pleistocene sediments exposed, between Elsterian and Saalian glacial deposits, during lignite quarrying at Schöningen have been a subject of continuing controversy. Famous for the discovery of Palaeolithic wooden hunting spears and evidence of horse butchery, Mania (Mania & Altermann 2014) and Urban (2007) recognised three separate interglacial intervals, associated with channel infills traversing the site. Authors of a Monograph on Schöningen (Behre 2012), however, considered the deposits assigned by Urban to Holsteinian and the Reinsdorf Interglacial as both of Holsteinian age, related to MIS 9, and laid down in a lake infilling a glacial tunnel valley, like other Holsteinian sites in northern Germany, consequently proposing, that the Elsterian glaciation related to MIS 10, not MIS 12, as generally believed in northern Europe. This controversy highlights a failure to recognise the palaeoenvironments in which the channels and sediment sequences deposited within them were formed. Our new interpretation recognises a series of alluvial fans, on the western side of the valley in which the sequence of Quaternary deposits was conserved. These fans were initially formed at the onset of the Elsterian late-glacial, following melting of permafrost covering the Elm, the adjacent Muschelkalk massif, and reactivated after subsequent cold-climate stages. Powerful meltwater streams incised channels down the face of the alluvial fans and channels draining along the distal margins of the fans, cutting into glacial sediments flooring the valley. In the North Pit organic deposits within channels cut into the fans, yielded characteristic but discontinuous Holsteinian pollen records. Some, originally referred to late-glacial interstadials, are reinterpreted and assigned to the earliest part of the interglacial. In the South Pit deposits of the Reinsdorf Interglacial, were preserved in a wide, well-incised marginal channel, cut by powerful meltwater, then abandoned and infilled by partly organic sediments, a repeated series of five shallowing cycles, showing typical seral development from open-water to fen woodland or reedswamp. Pollen analysis showed a sequence, beginning with fully temperate zones of an interglacial vegetational succession to a succeeding stadial and interstadial. Palaeolithic artefacts occur at all levels in this sequence, with the spear horizon belonging to cycle 4 (interstadial). The Reinsdorf Interglacial vegetational succession differs from that of the Holsteinian in significant characteristics, but also well-preserved large and small mammal faunas are distinctly different from those from Hoxnian deposits in England and other Holsteinian deposits, all ascribed to MIS 11. We relate the Reinsdorf sequence to MIS 9, A third interglacial horizon, the Schöningen Interglacial of Urban, occupied a similar, smaller channel, incised along the margin of the fans in the North Pit. Palynologically, differing considerably from the Holsteinian and Reinsdorf Interglacials, it correlates closely with the Dömnitz Interglacial of Erd (1973) and is referred to MIS 7.


    20th Congress of the International Union for Quaternary Research - INQUA 2019


    Dublin, Ireland

    Event: Conference