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Speleothems of the Wadi Sannur cave (Eastern Desert, Egypt): a well-preserved archive of paleoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic changes

The Egyptian desert is known for its large number of geoheritage sites with regard to geomorphology, paleontology, sedimentology, geoarchaeology and palaeogeography (e.g., Plyusnina et al. 2016; Al-Dhwadi and Sallam 2019; Sallam and Ruban 2019; Sallam et al. 2020a, b; Mashaal et al. 2020; Abd-Elhakim et al. 2021; Sallam and Abou-Elmagd 2021; Ruban et al. 2021). The Wadi Sannur cave, a well-known geosite in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, is located ~ 70 km south-east of Beni Suef city. The cave is a typical example of karst caves formed by fracture-induced chemical dissolution and physical abrasion-erosion of middle Eocene limestone (Gunay et al. 1997). It consists of a single crescent-shaped chamber measuring approximately 700 m in length, 15 m in width, and 10 m in height. Its entrance hole was discovered in an old quarry of Eocene marble, known as the Egyptian alabaster, which is still mined for ornamental stones and sculptures. The Wadi Sannur cave is adorned with different forms of spectacular calcareous speleothems (cave dripstones) formed through slow precipitation of the cave waters that are supersaturated with calcium carbonates (Dabous and Osmond 2000). Such speleothem formations include stalactites, stalagmites, and pillars (Fig. 1). In places, flowstones form widespread stone waterfalls and thin, wavy sheets of calcite with varicolored bands. Other cavern formations comprise cave popcorn or the so called cave corals, calcite rafts, and varieties of cave crystals.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Speleothems of the Wadi Sannur cave comprising stalactites, stalagmites and pillars

Speleothems lend themselves remarkably well for accurate dating of high-resolution multi-proxy records of terrestrial paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatologic conditions (e.g., Lauritzen and Lundberg 1999; Rau et al. 2015; Martín-Chivelet et al. 2017). In this regard, isotopic analyses of calcareous speleothems from the Wadi Sannur cave provide significant information on environmental changes of the land surface above the cave (e.g., Dabous and Osmond 2000; El-Shenawy et al. 2018; Sallam et al. 2020b). El-Shenawy et al. (2018) attributed the development of the cave to periods of heavy rainfall and vegetation flourish, concomitant to the earliest occurrence of Homo sapiens during the middle stone age in northern Africa. The Wadi Sannur cave with the peculiar palaeokarst and calcite deposition fabrics is considered one of the most attractive geomorphosites in the Egyptian Eastern Desert, and it has become a popular target of many geological excursions and for geoscientific research.

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Open access funding provided by The Science, Technology & Innovation Funding Authority (STDF) in cooperation with The Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB).

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Sallam, E.S. Speleothems of the Wadi Sannur cave (Eastern Desert, Egypt): a well-preserved archive of paleoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic changes. Int J Earth Sci (Geol Rundsch) 111, 1269–1271 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00531-022-02177-2

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