Cave fillings – a chronicle of the past. An outline of the Younger Pleistocene cave sediments study in Poland

Teresa Madeyska, Krzysztof Cyrek


The scientific exploration of Polish cave sediments started 130 years ago. Important Palaeolithic sites were discovered and investigated from that time by archaeologists and zoologists. During the second half of the 20th century geological analysis was introduced to the cave filling study. More than 50 caves and rock shelters, differentiated according to their shape and dimensions, have been explored to date, every one of which contained subfossil animal remains. In about 30 sites, culture layers, scattered artefacts or other traces of the activity of Palaeolithic people were found. The sedimentary successions, 2-8 metres thick, consist mainly of clastic components that reflect the past climatic changes. The subfossil fauna includes animals living in tundra, steppe, forest and aquatic environments. The proportions of particular groups vary with the position in the succession. The lithological composition of the sediments and the faunal composition were used for reconstruction of past climatic changes and for the stratigraphical interpretation. Remnants of the oldest Palaeolithic culture in this region - the Acheulian type with Levalloisian technique - were found in deposits dated to the Warthanian and to the penultimate interglacial or even to the Odranian. During the Eemian, this culture coexisted with the Taubachian. For the Early Vistulian, the Levallois-Mousterian, Micoquo-Prondnikian and Charentian are characteristic cultures. Upper Palaeolithic cultures (Jerzmanowician, Aurignacian, Szeletian and then East-Gravettian) developed during younger Vistulian interstadials (Interplenivistulian) correlated with stage 3 of the oxygen isotope curve. Toward the end of the Vistulian, the Magdalenian culture and the Epigravettian appeared.


Cave sediments, Palaeolithic, Vistulian

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