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The Black Sea Dating Game and Holocene Marine Transgression

January 10, 2014

Dating of major sea-level changes using shells or calcareous microfossils is prone to errors in semi-enclosed marine environments where inputs of seawater and river water vary over time and space. The need to refine mollusc-based age estimates for the rate of the Holocene marine transgression in the Black Sea is the focus of multiple palaeoceanographic and archaeological studies. This ongoing “dating game” seeks to clarify conflicting evidence for a hypothetical catastrophic marine flood that forced the emigration of Neolithic farmers from the shores of a Holocene freshwater lake in the Black Sea. The potential importance of confirming or rejecting this megaflood hypothesis has led to multiple attempts at refining the chronology of the marine transgression and quantifying the palaeosalinity of the Black Sea surface water during the Holocene. Here we report that six new AMS radiocarbon ages of 8890 ± 50 to 8450 ± 40 yr BP were obtained for wood, grass and sedge leaves from peat layers in Core 342 at 33.16 – 32.71 m below present sea level on the Ukrainian Shelf. These plant materials provide critical new ages for quantifying Black Sea carbon reservoir issues. The accuracy of our new AMS wood/peat ages is independently supported by palynochronological correlation. The ages of our plant materials have ~100 years precision and are ~420 – 520 years younger than those previously reported for unsorted detrital peat in Core 342. Paired mollusc—wood ages for brackish—freshwater Dreissena polymorpha shell from detrital peat also shows that an inaccuracy of >1120 yr can arise for shells during times when carbon reservoir values in the semi-isolated, brackish-water Black Sea could depart significantly from global average. Our revised sea level curve shows a gradual early Holocene transgression from water depths of −45.9 to −32.8 m, with initial Mediterranean inflow by 8.9 ka BP.

Mudie P J, Yanko-Hombach V, Kadurin S, in press. The Black Sea Dating Game and Holocene Marine Transgression, Open Journal of Marine Science, 2014, 4, doi:10.4236/ojms.2014.41001. Article.

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