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Deciphering late Quaternary land snail shell δ18O and δ13C from Franchthi Cave (Argolid, Greece)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

André C. Colonese*
BioArCh, Department of Archaeology, University of York, Biology S. Block, York, YO10 5YW, UK
Giovanni Zanchetta
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Pisa, Via S. Maria, 53, 56126 Pisa, Italy IGG-CNR Via Moruzzi, 1 56100 Pisa, Italy INGV sez. Pisa, Via della Faggiola 32, 56126 Pisa, Italy
Catherine Perlès
Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, CNRS, UMR 7055, Paris, France
Russell N. Drysdale
Department of Resource Management and Geography, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
Giuseppe Manganelli
Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Università di Siena, Via P.A. Mattioli 4, 53100 Siena, Italy
Ilaria Baneschi
IGG-CNR Via Moruzzi, 1 56100 Pisa, Italy
Elissavet Dotsika
Institute of Materials Science, National Center of Scientific Research "Demokritos", GR15310 Ag. Paraskevi, Attikis, Greece
Hélène Valladas
Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE/IPSL), CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Bâtiment 12, Avenue de la Terrasse, 91198, Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France
*Corresponding author. E-mail, (A.C. Colonese), (G. Zanchetta), (C. Perlès), (R.N. Drysdale), (G. Manganelli), (I. Baneschi), (E. Dotsika), (H. Valladas).


This paper investigates the stable isotopic composition from late Pleistocene–Holocene (~ 13 to ~ 10.5 cal ka BP) shells of the land snail Helix figulina, from Franchthi Cave (Greece). It explores the palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental implications of the isotope palaeoecology of archaeological shells at the time of human occupation of the cave. Modern shells from around the cave were also analysed and their isotopic signatures compared with those of the archaeological shells. The carbon isotope composition of modern shells depicts the consumption of C3 vegetation. Shell oxygen isotopic values are consistent with other Mediterranean snail shells from coastal areas. Combining empirical linear regression and an evaporative model, the δ18Os suggest that modern snails in the study area are active during periods of higher relative humidity and lower rainfall δ18O, probably at night. Late glacial and early Holocene δ18Os show lower values compared to modern ones. Early Holocene δ18Os values likely track enhanced moisture and isotopic changes in the precipitation source. By contrast, lower late glacial δ18O could reflect lower temperatures and δ18Op, compared to the present day. Shell carbon isotope values indicate the presence of C3 vegetation as main source of carbon to late glacial and early Holocene snails.

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University of Washington

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