Predominantly clastic, off-lapping, transgressive, near-shore marine sediment packages that are morphologically expressed as subparallel NE-trending barriers, beach ridges, and associated back-barrier areas, characterize the near-surface stratigraphic section between the Savannah and the Ogeechee Rivers in Effingham County, southeastern Georgia. Each barrier/back-barrier (shoreline) complex is lower than and cut into a higher/older complex. Each barrier or shoreline complex overlies Miocene strata. No direct age data are available for these deposits. Previous researchers have disagreed on their age and provenance. Using luminescence and meteoric beryllium-10 (10Be) inventory analyses, we estimated a minimum age for the largest, westernmost, morphologically identifiable, and topographically-highest, barrier/beach-ridge (the Wicomico shoreline barrier) and constrained the age of a suite of younger barrier/beach-ridges that lie adjacent and seaward of the Wicomico shoreline barrier.
At the study site, the near-shore marine/estuarine deposits underlying the Wicomico shoreline barrier are overlain by eolian sand and an intervening zone-of-mixing. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) data indicate ages of ≤43 ka for the eolian sand and 116 ka for the zone-of-mixing. Meteoric 10Be and pedostratigraphic data indicate minimum residence times of 33.4 ka for the eolian sand, 80.6 ka for the zone-of-mixing, and 247 ka for the paleosol. The combined OSL and 10Be age data indicate that, at this locality, the barrier/beach ridge has a minimum age of about 360 ka. This age for the Wicomico shoreline-barrier deposit is the first for any Pleistocene near-shore marine/estuarine deposit in southeast Georgia that is conclusively older than 80 ka. The 360-ka minimum age is in agreement with other geochronologic data for near-coastline deposits in Georgia and South Carolina. The geomorphic position of this barrier/beach-ridge is similar to deposits in South Carolina considered to be ~450 ka to >1 Ma. The age and geomorphic data for Georgia and South Carolina possibly suggest the presence of MIS-11 (~420−360 ka) shoreline deposits between 15 m and 28 m above present sea level in the Southeastern Atlantic Coastal Plain.