A new radiocarbon chronology of Baumkirchen, stratotype for the onset of the Upper Würmian in the Alps



The start of the Upper Würmian in the Alps was marked by massive fluvioglacial aggradation prior to the arrival of the Central Alpine glaciers. In 1984, the Subcommission on European Quaternary Stratigraphy defined the clay pit of Baumkirchen (in the foreland of the Inn Valley, Austria) as the stratotype for the Middle to Upper Würmian boundary in the Alps. Key for the selection of this site was its radiocarbon chronology, which still ranks among the most important datasets of this time interval in the Alps. In this study we re-sampled all available original plant specimens and established an accelerator mass spectrometry chronology which supersedes the published 40-year-old chronology. The new data show a much smaller scatter and yielded slightly older conventional radiocarbon dates clustering at ca. 31 14C ka BP. When calibrated using INTCAL13 the new data suggest that the sampled interval of 653–681 m in the clay pit was deposited 34–36 cal ka BP. Using two new radiocarbon dates of bone fragments found in the fluvioglacial gravel above the banded clays allows us to constrain the timing of the marked change from lacustrine to fluvioglacial sedimentation to ca. 32–33 cal ka BP, which suggests a possible link to the Heinrich 3 event in the North Atlantic. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.