Geology and palaeoenvironment of Karin Tak Cave (lesser caucasus)

Avagyan Ara, Sahakyan Lilit H., Igityan Hayk, Gevorgyan Mikayel, Sahakyan Kristina, Antonosyan Maria, Tepanosyan Gevorg, Sahakyan Lilit V., Atalyan Tatul, Grigoryan Taron, Aspaturyan Narek, Avagyan Seda, and Yepiskoposyan Levon

ABSTRACT:

Karin Tak cave is located in the south-eastern end of the Lesser Caucasus (NE of the Armenian Highland). Development of the cave was related to the dissolution of Middle-Upper Jurassic limestone by meteoric water recharge controlled by pre-existing faults and fissures beginning in the Neogene. Geophysical studies of the cave, including by ground penetrating radar, have been conducted, and a map of the pitÂ’s walls constructed showing the extent of the roof collapse breccia and of sediment deposits on the cave floor. The collapse material consists of chaotic limestone breccia and blocks. Careful analysis of cave floor sediments allowed the Late Pleistocene palaeoenvironment in the vicinity of the cave to be reconstructed. Analyses included integrated sedimentological studies (stratigraphy, grain size analysis) together with geochemical (X-ray fluorescence) and palynological observations. Pollen studies indicate the dominance of conifers (>60 % Tsuga sp., Pinus sp.) together with Fraxinus sp. (fam. Oleaceae) and Quercus sp. (fam. Fagaceae), which indicate a cold temperate continental climate in the Late Pleistocene. Non-dramatic climate change occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the cave area, with conditions favorable for hominin activity.

SIMPLE LANGUAGE SUMMARY:

The Karin Tak cave is located in the Lesser Caucasus, near the Armenian Highland. The cave was formed during the Middle to Upper Jurassic period when rainwater, guided by faults and cracks in the earth, dissolved the limestone rock. Scientists have studied the cave using a technology called ground-penetrating radar and made a map showing areas where the roof of the cave has collapsed and where sediment has built up on the cave floor. The collapsed parts of the cave are made up of jumbled limestone chunks and blocks. By examining the sediment on the cave floor, scientists have been able to piece together what the environment around the cave was like in the Late Pleistocene, which was a time period thousands of years ago. They studied the layers of sediment, the size of the grains, and the chemicals in the sediment using a technique called X-ray fluorescence. They also looked at the pollen trapped in the sediment. They found lots of pollen from conifer trees like hemlock and pine, along with ash and oak trees. This suggests that the area had a cool, continental climate during the Late Pleistocene. Interestingly, the climate in the cave area did not change dramatically during the last big ice age. The conditions remained favorable for early humans to live and be active there.