Abstract

Iridium, Pd, Pt, and Au were determined in sections from the Bottaccione Gorge and Contessa Valley, Gubbio, Italy, by radiochemical neutron activation. Shales and limestones were sampled from 2.85 m above to 219 m below the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary. Metal enrichment was evaluated by comparing the boundary shale region with the lower part of the section (background). Iridium is concentrated by 63 times in the boundary shales in comparison with the background, whereas other metals are enriched by no more than 2.2 times. The enrichment of Ir is not confined to the boundary shales but extends approximately 2 m above and below this horizon. Within this Ir-rich region there are four distinct Ir maxima in addition to the major Ir enrichment in the K/T boundary shales. Iridium maxima are stratigraphically coincident with maxima in abundances of shocked minerals characteristic of explosive volcanism. Limestones are much lower in noble metals than shales, and their Ir contents in the K/T boundary region are largely accounted for by their minor clay mineral contents. The time represented by the 4 m of Ir-rich section is at least 3 x 105 yr, if published sedimentation rates are used. To sustain an increased Ir flux over this period and to account for the Ir distribution near the K/T boundary, intense volcanic activity is a preferred alternative to impact of extraterrestrial material.

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