Uranium-thorium dating of speleothems

Kathleen A. Wendt, Xianglei Li, R. Lawrence Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Speleothems are important timekeepers of Earth's climate history. A key advantage of speleothems is that they can be dated using U-Th techniques. Mass spectrometric methods for measuring U and Th isotopes has led to vast improvements in measurement precision and a dramatic reduction in sample size. As a result, the timing of past climate, environment, and Earth system changes can be investigated at exceptional temporal precision. In this review, we summarize the principles and history of U-Th dating of speleothems. Finally, we highlight three studies that use U-Th dated speleothems to investigate past changes to the Asian monsoon, constrain the timing of sociopolitical change in ancient civilizations, and develop a speleothem-based calibration of the 14C timescale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-92
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This contribution was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grants 1702816 and 1602940, and the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) grant P327510. We thank reviewers D.A. Richards and W.D. Sharp and all 3 editors for their constructive feedback, which improved this manuscript considerably.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Mineralogical Society of America. All rights reserved.


  • Mass spectrometry
  • Speleothems
  • Th dating
  • U-Th dating
  • U-series


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