Journal of Cave and Karst Studies - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 64 Number 2: 108-116
- August 2002

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Petrographic and Geochemical Screening of Speleothems for U-series Dating: An Example from Recrystallized Speleothems from Wadi Sannur Cavern, Egypt
L. Bruce Railsback, Adel A. Dabous, J.K. Osmond, and C.J. Fleisher


Petrographic and geochemical analyses of four speleothems from Wadi Sannur Cavern in eastern Egypt show that petrography and geochemistry can provide a useful way to screen speleothems prior to dating via U-series analysis. The speleothems vary from inclusion-rich zoned calcite to clear featureless calcite. U concentrations (ranging from 0.01-2.65 ppm) and Sr concentrations (ranging from 0.00-0.11 wt%) are greater in inclusion-rich zoned calcite. U concentrations are also greater in speleothems with small (<1.2 mm wide) columnar calcite crystals than in speleothems with larger crystals. Mg concentrations in the speleothems range from 0.2 to 2.3 mol% MgCO3 and show no significant relationship to petrography at the microscopic scale. Geochemical considerations suggest that the Wadi Sannur speleothems were originally mostly aragonite, and that all four have undergone recrystallization. More generally, they suggest that coarse clear columnar calcite and large (>1.0 ppm) ranges of U concentration are warning signs of recrystallization and U loss. However, even finer grained, inclusion-rich columnar calcite may be the result of recrystallization while retaining U contents less depleted than those of associated clear calcite.

This page last updated: 18 December, 2002 13:17
Web Author: Jim Pisarowicz