Late Quaternary evolution of lower reaches of the Volga River (Raygorod section) based on luminescence dating

N. A. Taratunina*, J. P. Buylaert, R. N. Kurbanov, T. A. Yanina, A. O. Makeev, M. P. Lebedeva, A. O. Utkina, A. S. Murray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The normally-closed Caspian Sea is known for large changes in relative sea-level (of ∼170 m) during the late Quaternary. These transgressive/regressive events influenced the topography, sedimentation and ecosystems of a large area, of up to 1 million km2. The Volga River has played an important role in the water balance of the Caspian Quaternary basins but our understanding of the temporal evolution is poorly constrained. Recent studies on the evolution of the Lower Volga have focused mainly on the subaerial sequence of loess-palaeosol series corresponding to a long-duration Caspian low stand (the so-called “Atelian regression” from ∼90 to ∼25 ka). In this study we address, for the first time, the temporal evolution of the Volga River during the late Quaternary, as recorded in the many layers of alluvial sands at the Raygorod reference section. This 50 m high outcrop contains a complicated sequence of different types of interlayered alluvium (channel and floodplain facies), a loess-palaeosol sequence with a weakly developed palaeosol, and marine sediments of the Khvalynian transgression (Chocolate Clay facies). The new chronology, based on 35 samples, is derived using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) analysis of sand-sized quartz, with support from post-infra-red infra-red stimulated luminescence (post-IR IRSL) from K-rich feldspar grains to date the older parts of the section. The new ages identify five stages of the topography development in the northern parts of the Lower Volga: (1) an MIS 5a flood-plain in deltaic/estuary environments (>90 ka) during a high-stand of the Caspian Sea (Hyrcanian transgression); (2) a transition from deltaic/estuary conditions to a river valley with normal alluvial sedimentation and sporadic stabilization reflected in palaeosol development (80–70 ka); (3) a palaeo-Volga channel migration at elevations of 4–8 m msl during 69–62 ka, evidence of a brief increase in Caspian Sea-level and blocking of the Volga flow; (4) a subaerial stage with high-speed accumulation of loess during MIS 4 to MIS 2, containing one weakly developed palaeosol (MIS 3c) and pedocomplex of three combined palaeosols of the beginning of MIS2 (30–24 ka); (5) a rapid Khvalynian transgression, starting at the Raygorod location at ∼18.3 ka, with relatively weak marine erosion of the top 40–60 cm of loess cover, presumably because of the rapid migration of the coastline in the flat Northern Caspian Lowland.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101369
JournalQuaternary Geochronology
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Caspian Sea
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Lower Volga region
  • Luminescence dating
  • Paleogeography


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