X-ray fluorescence microchemical analysis and autoradiography applied to cave deposits: speleothems, detrital rhythmites, ice and prehistoric paintings

This article presents recent research on the sedimentary endokarstic infillings in connection with the new contributions of geochemical analysis by autoradiography and X-ray fluorescence (portable analyser, core scanner, micro-XRF, microprobe) in the context of the 'Climanthrope' ANR programme. Coupled with sedimentological analysis (stratigraphy, laser grain size analysis, micromineralogy, and micromorphology), geochemical analysis and imaging refine the study of underground deposits such as carbonated sediments (speleothems), rhythmites, subterranean ice, and prehistoric cave paintings. Formed following a seasonal cycle, stalagmites and rhythmites are likely to provide important data not only on the two main parameters of regional climate, i.e. hydrology and temperature, but also on human impacts (speleothems in urban tunnels) and the rural environment. The microdebris and dusts sampled in subterranean ice record the palaeoenvironment by snow trapping. Parietal paintings can be studied directly with a portable XRF analyser without sampling. In every case, the notion of the 'site effect' is discussed for four French examples (Pyrenees, Aquitaine, Charente, Rhone) and three foreign examples (Italy, Chile, China).

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