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Title: Cemented in time: formation of the 20 000 year old Willandra fossil trackway
Authors: Graham, IT
Whiteside, E
Ward, C
Cendón, DI
Westaway, M
Cupper, M
Woodhead, J
Keywords: Lakes
Sediments
Isotopes
Qartz
Clays
Pleistocene epoch
Issue Date: 7-Jul-2014
Publisher: Geological Society of Australia
Citation: Graham, I., Whiteside, E., Ward, C., Cendón, D. I., Westaway, M., Cupper, M., & Woodhead, J. (2014). Cemented in time: formation of the 20 000 year old Willandra fossil trackway. Paper presented at the Australian Earth Sciences Convention 2014, Newcastle NSW, AESC 2014. 22nd Geological Convention, 7-10 July.
Abstract: The Willandra Lakes system of southwestern NSW is situated within the Murray Basin, and consists of 19 interconnected relict lake basins. In general, the lake sediments within the Willandra Lakes system consist of wellsorted quartz sands (with typical lacustrine shelly fauna), associated with deeper water clays and sandy clays. In 2003, the region was found to host the largest known in-situ tract of Pleistocene human footprints in the world, with the site located on the shoreline of a small, relict lake basin between Lakes Garnpung and Leaghur. Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating revealed that the sediments were deposited between 19 000 and 20 000 years ago. The area is of great cultural value to the local Aboriginal communities (the traditional tribal groups Paakantyi, Mutthi Mutthi and Ngiyampaa), as well as to both the national and international scientific communities. Detailed mineralogical (quantitative XRD), geochemical (XRF, ICP-MS, stable isotopes) and textural (petrography, SEM) analyses of the sediments were undertaken to help determine their origin and provide a basis for their future conservation. The footprints themselves are impressed into a hardpan unit, surrounded by low sand dunes. Approximately 820 m2 of the hardpan has been excavated and explored. The footprint-bearing sediments are composed of a series of thin laminae totalling 150 mm thick, accumulated over repeated cycles of wetting and drying. These sediments are largely composed of pelloids and intraclasts of authigenic clay-sized particles (<2–8 μm) of ferroan magnesite (or hydromagnesite/palygorskite), eolian-derived fractured quartz grains and minor (<10 wt%) kaolinite/illite. There is a large lateral and vertical variation in the modal mineralogy; the NE corner contains 90.5 wt% ferroan magnesite (and minor smithsonite) while the SW and W parts contain 49 wt% ferroan magnesite. The other sediments are largely composed of eolian quartz (up to 85 wt%), kaolinite, illite, rutile, albite, microcline, hematite, goethite and rare dolomite. In terms of stable isotopes, the ferroan magnesite carbonate has a δ13C of –2.5‰ while the hydromagnesite has δ13C of 0.4‰. The magnesite, hydromagnesite and palygorskite appear to have been derived through precipitation within the lake. Although direct precipitation of these phases is rare under surficial conditions, it can occur if there is a high Mg/Ca, only possible if extensive early precipitation of calcite cements occurred before the waters entered into the lake. As the lake dried-out, there was an increase in salinity resulting in a decrease in the activity of water in solution, thereby increasing the hydrated Mg2+ leading to magnesite precipitation.
URI: http://aesc2014.gsa.org.au/assets/Various-reg-partner-opp-workshop-summ-/AESC-Abstract-Proceedings.pdf
http://apo.ansto.gov.au/dspace/handle/10238/8304
ISSN: 0729 011 X
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