High-resolution rapid thermal neutron tomographic imaging of fossiliferous cave breccias from Southeast Asia

Smith, Holly1, Bevitt, Dr Joseph2, Garbe,Dr Ulf 2, Zaim,Professor Yahdi3, Rizal, Dr Yan3, Aswan, Dr3, Puspaningrum, Dr Mika Rizki3, Trihiscaryo, Dr Agus3, Price, Dr Gilbert4, Webb,Dr Gregg4

1Griffith University, Nathan, Australia, 2Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Sydney, Australia, 3Institut Teknologi Bandung, Bandung, Indonesia, 4University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Tomographic imaging is gaining importance amongst palaeontologists as a non-invasive approach to studying fossil remains. Traditional methods of preparing a fossil risks damage to the specimen and destroys contextual evidence in the surrounding matrix. CT imaging can reveal the internal composition and structure of buried fossils and consolidated sediment matrices before any destructive mechanical or chemical preparation. Neutron tomography (NT) discerns denser matrices impenetrable to CT imaging; however, this approach remains relatively underutilised in palaeontology. We employ high-resolution rapid thermal neutron tomographic imaging to visualise internal diagnostic features of dense fossiliferous breccia from three Pleistocene cave localities in Sumatra, Indonesia. We demonstrate that these seemingly homogeneous breccia are an excellent source of data to aid in determining taphonomic and depositional histories of complex depositional sites such as tropical caves. The breccia subsamples retain excellent details of site formation history and results suggest the primary agents in the formation of the breccia and concentration of incorporated vertebrate remains are several rapid depositional phases of water and sediment gravity flow. This study highlights the potential for analyses of breccia deposits in palaeontological studies in Southeast Asian caves in the future.

Keywords: neutron tomography; fossil; cave; breccia; taphonomy, Pleistocene


Holly is a British Palaeontologist studying her PhD at Griffith University, Brisbane, focusing on the taphonomic histories of cave breccia in Southeast Asia.

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