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PhD defence

Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating of Palaeolithic cave sites and their environmental context in the western Mediterranean

Thursday 3 May 2018
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

The Western Mediterranean is a key region to understand human dispersal events within and out of the African continent as well as for the eventual replacement of Neanderthals by anatomically modern humans during the Pleistocene. Central to any conclusive interpretation of archaeological and palaeoclimatic datasets that can be found in Palaeolithc caves is the establishment of a reliable chronostratigraphic framework for the investigated site.

In this thesis, Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating was applied to determine the burial age of sedimentary deposits at three Palaeolithic cave sites in the Western Mediterranean - the Thomas Quarries and Rhafas, both Morocco, and Vanguard Cave, Gibraltar. Dating results were coupled with archaeological, sedimentological and geological proxy data to allow conclusive statements regarding the timing of human occupation phases and the appearance of technological innovations at the sites, local site formation processes and palaeoenvironmental conditions in the region in the past.

Reliable OSL chronologies were developed for stratigraphical sequences at Rhafas and Vanguard Cave, while the applied standard single-grain dating turned out to be an inadequate technique for age determination of the Thomas Quarries sediments. Rhafas covers a time period from >135 ka to the Neolithic, including a technological shift from classical MSA to Aterian after 123 ka, LSA industries and evidence climatic conditions that favoured intensive carbonate formation during MIS 3 and MIS 2 at the site. Vanguard Cave preserves a record of rapid aeolian sedimentation between MIS 5 and ~43 ka with evidence for repeated occupation by Neanderthals.


  • Prof. H.G.D.G. De Weerdt


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PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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