Age of karst processes

This course is part of the programme
Karstology (Third Cycle)

Objectives and competences

Karst and cave sediments are a relatively special type of geological material. The karst environment is as much inclined to the preservation of paleontological remains as to their disintegration. On one hand, karst regions are known as being rich with sites of paleontological remains but on the other the majority of cave fill is completely sterile, particularly sediment from inside caves. A second problem is the decomposition and mixing of various cave sediments that erase their original record. For this reason it is necessary to undertake the dating of karst processes using various dating methods. Since the karst and caves have developed since the Archeozoic, almost all dating methods can be employed, except of course those used to date igneous and metamorphic rock. The methods used to determine directly the age of cave sediments are based on physical, chemical, and biological factors and classic geological and stratigraphic approaches. Students will become familiar with various dating methods, which we can divide into six categories. Student is able to evaluate results acquired through the various dating methods depending on other geological records, geological context, and awareness of the reliability and limits of the methods. During the course, the students will also become familiar with paleokarst, stratigraphic gaps, problems of dating the onset of karstification, various phases in the filling of caves, the development of karst forms, etc.




• Introduction
• Dating methods
• Sidereal methods
• Isotopic methods
• Radiogenic methods
• Chemical and biological methods
• Geomorphic methods
• Correlative methods
• Error possibilities of methods and evaluating their results
• Dating paleokarst
• Dating various periods of karstification and filling phases in karst areas

Intended learning outcomes

The point learning outcomes is awareness of the importance knowledge of the age of sediments,
of the caves and of karstification processes at all, understanding of the relevant terminology and knowledge of dating methods; relative and absolute. Students are familiar with methods to the extent that are able to independently decide on the choice of the method for a particular problem, understand the results and know the weaknesses and the potential failures of specific method.


• Bosák, P., Ford, D.C., Glazek, J. & Horaček, I., (Ed.)1989: Paleokarst. A Systematic and Regional Review. Elsevier-Academia, Amsterdam –Praha.
• Bosák, P., 2002: Karst processes from the beginning to the end: how can they be dated? in Gabrovšek, F. (Ed.) Evolution of Karst: From Prekarst to Cessation, Carsologica, Založba ZRC, 191-223, Ljubljana.
• Bosák P., Pruner, P., Mihevc, A. & Zupan Hajna, N., 2000: Magnetostratigraphy and unconformities in cave sediments: case study from the Classical Karst, SW Slovenia. Geologos, 5, 13-30, Poznań.


The oral exam is designed to assess the student acquired knowledge from the classes and ability to understand, articulate and expressing their knowledge. Conditions for examination are the presence at the field work, a short essay (5-10 pages), by which the student works on a certain topic related to his seminar and dissertation. 50/50

Lecturer's references

Full Professor of Geology


ZUPAN HAJNA N., MIHEVC A., BOSÁK P., PRUNER P., HERCMAN H., HORÁČEK I., WAGNER J., ČERMÁK J., PAWLAK J., SIERPIEŃ P., KDÝR Š., JUŘIČKOVÁ L., ŠVARA A. (2021): Pliocene to Holocene chronostratigraphy and paleoenvironmental records from cave sediments: Račiška pečina section (SW Slovenia). – Quaternary International, 605–606: 5–24. (IF 2020 = 2.130; ISSN 1040-6182;

SZCZYGIEŁ J., WRÓBLEWSKI W., MENDECKI M. J., HERCMAN H., BOSÁK P. (2020): Soft-sediment deformation structures in cave deposits and their possible causes (the Kalacka Cave, Tatra Mts., Poland). – Journal of Structural Geology, 140: 104161. (IF = 3.571; ISSN 0191-8141;

ZUPAN HAJNA N., BOSÁK P., PRUNER P., MIHEVC A., HERCMAN H., HORÁČEK I. (2020): Karst sediments in Slovenia: Plio-Quaternary multi-proxy records. – Quaternary International, 546: 4–19. (IF = 2.130; ISSN 1040-6182;

BELLA P., BOSÁK P., MIKYSEK P., LITTVA J., HERCMAN H., PAWLAK J. (2019): Multi-phased hypogenic speleogenesis in a marginal horst structure of the Malé Karpaty Mountains, Slovakia. – International Journal of Speleology, 48, 2: 203–220. (IF = 1.730; ISSN 0392-6672;

BELLA P., BOSÁK P., BRAUCHER R., PRUNER P., HERCMAN H., MINÁR J., VESELSKÝ J., HOLEC J., LÉANNI L. (2019): Multi-level Domica–Baradla cave system (Slovakia, Hungary): Middle Pliocene–Pleistocene evolution and implications for the denudation chronology of the Western Carpathians. – Geomorphology, 327: 62–79. (IF = 3.681; ISSN 0169-555X;