Shell we date? ESR dating molluscs from the Sangamonian Interglacial deposits at Hopwood Farm, IL

Danny M. K. Kim, Bonnie A. B. Blackwell, B. Brandon Curry, Joel I. B. Blickstein, David A. Grimley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


During the Sangamonian Interglacial, North America experienced unusually warm climates. At Hopwood Farm, IL, a small kettle lake filled with sediment after the Illinoian glaciers retreated from southern IL. The Hopwood Farm kettle, a lacustrine deposit approximately 6 m deep and approximately 1.5 km wide, sits south of the Wisconsinan ice margin on the Illinoian Till Plain in central Illinois. The kettle likely started as a permanent boreal forest lake, filling up during the late Middle Illinoian through the Sangamonian. After final desiccation, during which carbonate was deposited, Wisconsinan loess buried the lake. Today, the lake is gone, but the deposit contains lacustrine sediment with many late Illinoian and Sangamonian fauna. Few geochronological methods can reliably date sites older than 50 ka. Since the Sangamonian at Hopwood Farm exceed the (super 14) C dating limit, seven different absolute dating methods have been attempted at Hopwood Farm, without reaching a consensus about the age. For example, amino acid racemization (AAR) on molluscs, (super 230) Th/ (super 234) U on enamel and dentine, (super 231) Pa/ (super 235) U on dentine, ESR on tooth enamel, plus coupled ESR- (super 230) Th/ (super 234) U and coupled ESR- (super 231) Pa/ (super 235) U all yielded ages that did not agree well. Each method gave slightly, or drastically, different ages, ranging from 11 to 180 ka. To solve the controversy, 14 mollusc samples newly collected with associated sediment from three depths at Hopwood Farm were dated by standard ESR. ESR can date molluscs from 0.5 ka to 2.6 Ma in age with 5-10% precision, by comparing the accumulated radiation dose with the total radiation dose rate from the mollusc and its environment. Because the molluscs had little U, their ages do not depend on the U uptake model. For Unit 3, the molluscs dated from 98-90+ or -6 ka, which correlates best with Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5c, or possibly, MIS 5b. These ESR ages also agreed well with the coupled ESR- (super 230) Th/ (super 234) U ages on the teeth and the most recent AAR analyses on molluscs given their stratigraphic relationships.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAbstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America
Place of PublicationBoulder, CO
PublisherGeological Society of America
ISBN (Print)0016-7592
StatePublished - 2014


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