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Radiocarbon Reservoir Effect and the Timing of the Late-Glacial/Early Holocene Humid Phase in the Atacama Desert (Northern Chile)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Mebus A. Geyh
Joint Geoscientific Research Institute (GGA), Stilleweg 2, D-30655, Hannover, Germany. E-mail:
Martin Grosjean
Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 12, CH-3012, Bern, Switzerland
Lautaro Núñez
Instituto de Investigaciones Arqueológicas, Universidad Católica del Norte, Antofagasta, Chile
Ulrich Schotterer
Department of Physics, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, CH-3012, Bern, Switzerland


We revise substantially the regional chronology of lake-level fluctuations from the late-glacial/early Holocene humid phase along a high altitude transect (3500 to 4500 m) between 18°S and 28°S in the Southwestern Altiplano of Northern Chile. Radiocarbon dates and 210Pb profiles for limnic and terrestrial materials allow us to estimate and justify reservoir correction values for conventional 14C dates. Our chronology suggests that the latest Pleistocene/early Holocene humid phase started between 13,000 and 12,000 14C yr B.P., and that maximum lake levels were reached between 10,800 and 9200 14C yr B.P. This is significantly younger than what has been established so far for the Titicaca–Uyuni Basin in Bolivia. The paleolakes disappeared sometime between 8400 and 8000 14C yr B.P. Our revised chronology agrees with the regional history of human occupation, and is broadly synchronous with vegetation changes in subtropical continental South America, and with the onset of wetland expansion in the northern hemisphere tropics.

Research Article
University of Washington

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Radiocarbon Reservoir Effect and the Timing of the Late-Glacial/Early Holocene Humid Phase in the Atacama Desert (Northern Chile)
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