EuroSpeleo 2016 Sessions

Caves, climate change and Neanderthals: ongoing palaeoclimate research in Matienzo, northern Spain

Session code: OS3

Oral / Science, Main EuroSpeleo Conference

Miss Laura Deeprose


The Matienzo depression, northern Spain, formed over the past 2.6 million years, revealing a potential for the caves of the region to contain a record of climate and environmental change throughout the Quaternary. Ongoing research programmes of cave monitoring have been addressing how in-cave climate signals contained within the hydrology and cave atmosphere are transferred into modern carbonate deposits. Analysis of speleothem deposits is providing a palaeoclimatic perspective, revealing variability in climatic conditions stretching from the modern day back through the Pleistocene. Currently we are aiming to reconstruct past variations in climate and environment between 80,000 – 30,000 years ago; a period which marks the decline and eventual extinction of the Neanderthals. Analysis of a stalagmite from Perlas Cave which grew between 80,000 – 60,000 years ago has demonstrated a high degree of climatic instability during this period. Future work aims to extend the record to 30,000 years ago using stable isotope analysis to infer climatic change. Flowstone deposits in neighbouring cave systems with sediments containing Aurignacian artefacts above and Mousterian artefacts below will be dated using U-Th to provide a timeframe for the last known presence of Neanderthals within the Matienzo region.


PhD student at Lancaster University researching the caves of Matienzo, northern Spain.


Peter M. Wynn (1), Philip A. Barker (1), Melanie J. Leng (2), Andrew C. Smith (2), Steve R. Noble (2)

1 Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, United Kingdom
2 NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities, British Geological Survey, Nottingham, NG12 5GG, United Kingdom