Speleology and magnetobiostratigraphic chronology of the GD 2 locality of the Gondolin hominin-bearing paleocave deposits, North West Province, South Africa

Andy I.R. Herries, Justin W. Adams, Kevin L. Kuykendall, John Shaw

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Speleological, paleomagnetic, mineral magnetic, and biochronological analyses have been undertaken at the Gondolin hominin-bearing paleocave, North West Province, South Africa. Two fossiliferous but stratigraphically separate sequences, GD2 and GD1/3, which were once part of a large cavern system, have been identified. Although some comparative paleomagnetic samples were taken from the GD 1, 3, and 4 localities that are currently under investigation, the research presented here focuses on the fossil-rich, in situ deposits at locality GD 2, excavated by E.S. Vrba in 1979. The GD 2 deposits are dominated by normal-polarity calcified clastic deposits that are sandwiched between clastic-free flowstone speleothems. The lower flowstone has a sharp contact with the red siltstone deposits and is of reversed polarity. The capping flowstone shows a change from normal to reversed polarity, thereby preserving a polarity reversal. While the paleomagnetic work indicates that the GD 2 fossil material was deposited during a normal-polarity period, the shortness of the sequence made matching of the magnetostratigraphy to the geomagnetic polarity time scale (GPTS) impossible without the aid of biochronology. While lacking multiple time-sensitive taxa, the recovery of specimens attributable to Stage III Metridiochoerus andrewsi is consistent with a deposition date between 1.9 and 1.5 Ma. A comparison of the magnetostratigraphy with the GPTS therefore suggests that the fauna-bearing siltstone of GD 2 date to the Olduvai normal-polarity event, which occurred between 1.95 and 1.78 Ma, and that the reversal from normal to reversed polarity identified in the capping flowstone dates to 1.78 Ma. The main faunal layers therefore date to slightly older than 1.78 Ma. Deposits from the GD 1 locality are dominated by reversed directions of magnetization, which show that this deposit is not of the same age as the faunal layers from the GD 2 locality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-631
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Australopithecus
  • Biochronology
  • Dolomite Paleocave
  • Early Pleistocene
  • Olduvai Event
  • Paleomagnetism
  • Speleology

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