New geological and tephrochronological data on the palaeontological site of the Senèze maar (Early Pleistocene, Massif Central, France)

Abstract : The volcanic system of Senèze (Domeyrat, Haute-Loire) comprises a basanite flow, scoriae, a maar crater and phreatomagmatic products. New field research and detailed cartography clarify their geometry and geological relationships. The maar contains an important palaeontological site of the Early Pleistocene that yielded forty species of mammals attributed to the biozone MNQ 18 (of which it is the reference locality). The excavations undertaken between 2001 and 2006 recovered new fossils and documented their stratigraphic and geodynamic context. The fossiliferous site is located on the shore of the palaeolake and includes several lacustrine and slope deposits linked to the contemporaneous climatic changes which in turn produced a number of locally fossiliferous findspots which appear to be close in age. The discovery of ten tephras emitted by the Mont-Dore strato-volcano, situated 60 km to the NW allowed development of a remarkable tephrochronological framework. Because of the intense weathering of the tephras, their composition is determined by their mineralogical content (feldspars, brown amphiboles, brown and green diopside, titanite, apatite, zircon, biotite-phlogopite, Fe-Ti oxides) and the chemical composition of feldspars (anorthoclase, sodic sanidine and plagioclases). The study of these tephras reveals the importance of the contemporaneous (mainly trachytic) pyroclastic activity and confirms the polyphased deposition of the site. The 40Ar/39Ar laser dating of alkali feldspars from five tephras shows a relatively narrow range of age comprised between 2.09 and 2.21 \textpm 0.02 Ma (1σ, age relative to ACs-2 standard at 1.201 Ma). Senèze is thus confirmed as a key Early Pleistocene palaeontological site in Europe.
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Jean-François Pastre, Evelyne Debard, Sébastien Nomade, Hervé Guillou, Martine Faure, et al.. New geological and tephrochronological data on the palaeontological site of the Senèze maar (Early Pleistocene, Massif Central, France). QUATERNAIRE, 2015, 26 (3), pp.225-244. ⟨hal-02334190⟩

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