A geochronologic framework for the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado

Shannon A. Mahan, Harrison J. Gray, Jeffery S. Pigati, Jim Wilson, Nathaniel A. Lifton, James B. Paces, Maarten Blaauw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The Ziegler Reservoir fossil site near Snowmass Village, Colorado, provides a unique opportunity to reconstruct high-altitude paleoenvironmental conditions in the Rocky Mountains during the last interglacial period. We used four different techniques to establish a chronological framework for the site. Radiocarbon dating of lake organics, bone collagen, and shell carbonate, and in situ cosmogenic Be and Al ages on a boulder on the crest of a moraine that impounded the lake suggest that the ages of the sediments that hosted the fossils are between ~ 140 ka and > 45 ka. Uranium-series ages of vertebrate remains generally fall within these bounds, but extremely low uranium concentrations and evidence of open-system behavior limit their utility. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages (n = 18) obtained from fine-grained quartz maintain stratigraphic order, were replicable, and provide reliable ages for the lake sediments. Analysis of the equivalent dose (D) dispersion of the OSL samples showed that the sediments were fully bleached prior to deposition and low scatter suggests that eolian processes were likely the dominant transport mechanism for fine-grained sediments into the lake. The resulting ages show that the fossil-bearing sediments span the latest part of marine isotope stage (MIS) 6, all of MIS 5 and MIS 4, and the earliest part of MIS 3.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-503
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number3
Early online date24 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


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