Optical dating and soil micromorphology at MacCauley's Beach, New South Wales, Australia
The ability to position landscapes in a context of time and space is a particular goal of Quaternary science research. The lack of context for dating samples published previously for MacCauley's Beach, an important site for the reconstruction of Australian sea levels, warranted a re-evaluation of both the site stratigraphy and chronology. In this study, we combined optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of sedimentary quartz grains and soil micromorphology of the same samples to improve our understanding of the depositional history and chronology of the sediments. This combination allowed the contextualization of samples not only in time and space, but also in terms of their depositional histories. The latter is important in OSL dating, where pre-, syn- and post-depositional processes can all influence the accuracy and precision of the final age estimates. The sediment profile at MacCauley's Beach is made up of three major units. The basal mottled mud layer has undergone extensive pedogenesis since deposition, and only a minimum age of 14.7 ± 2.7 ka could be calculated. The overlying grey mud, with OSL ages from the bottom and top of the unit of 10.0 ± 0.7 and 7.7 ± 0.5 ka, respectively, shows evidence of soil structure collapse. This unit correspond to the onset of the mid-Holocene sea-level high stand for this region. The overlying sand layer was first deposited at 7.5 ± 0.4 ka, with deposition continuing beyond 6.6 ± 0.4 ka. Not only does the chronology presented constrain the timing of deposition (and the extent of post-depositional processes) at MacCauley's Beach, but the methodological approach used here can be applied to any site to aid in the interpretation of formation processes and assess their influence on OSL age determination.