A reassessment of the infills and faunal assemblages of karst cavities known as ventarole in Salento (Apulia, Southern Italy): a multidisciplinary investigation on Cava Donno (Corigliano D'Otranto, Lecce)


Luca PANDOLFI, Marcello A. MANNINO, Sahra TALAMO, Leonardo SALARI, Paolo SANSO', Sandro SUBLIMI SAPONETTI, Eligio VACCA, Deborah VICARI, Michael P. RICHARDS, Carmelo PETRONIO
The karstic areas of Apulia in SE Italy are characterized by fissures locally called ventarole, which are known to contain bones of Pleistocene mammals. These bone assemblages have been commonly associated to the Late Pleistocene, based on stratigraphic, geomorphological and biochronological observations. We undertook palaeontological, radiocarbon and isotope analyses to verify whether the animal remains from the quarry of Cava Donno, near Corigliano d’Otranto (Apulia), were all actually of Pleistocene age. Our study shows that the infills of the ventarole contain, along with Late Pleistocene bones attributable to the Melpignano Faunal Unit, Holocene vertebrate skeletal remains. The deeper red clay infill at Cava Donno contains fauna of Pleistocene age, whilst the upper dark-reddish clayey sands contain mainly the bones of domestic animals and of a modern human. The AMS radiocarbon date, obtained to establish the age of this human from the ventarola, coincides with the Neolithic period. Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses on the same bone collagen suggest that the diet of this individual was similar to that of other Neolithic humans from Italy. The individual from Cava Donno had a balanced diet, centred upon terrestrial foods, with nutrients acquired both from vegetal and animal resources. The combined palaeontological, radiocarbon and isotopic data presented here suggest that crypto-solution processes occurred at Cava Donno both in the Last Interglacial and, to some extent, also around the Holocene Climatic Optimum. This implies that ventarole karst infills may contain vertebrate remains of Pleistocene and Holocene age and that, therefore, the assemblages from them probably need revising because they may not all date back to the early Late Pleistocene.
Karst cavities; Pleistocene; early Holocene; Neolithic; carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses
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