From Discrete Dichotomies to Plural Paradoxes: Re-viewing Stratigraphical Time, Temporalityand Change

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Stratigraphical time, temporality and change have frequently been studied and theorized through dichotomy, that is two opposed, “either/or” views. Linear versus cyclical and the principles of uniformitarianism versus catastrophism are classic examples. This paper aims to look beyond these simple tensions. It utilizes sequence stratigraphy as a lens to re-view established dichotomies and to explore the potential for a more paradoxical “both/and” interpretation. The main finding is that the two opposed linear versus cyclical views can be reconceived as one synthesized sinusoidal view; other dichotomies are re-viewed which allow for spatiotemporal explanation and prediction.

From Discrete Dichotomies to Plural Paradoxes: Re-viewing Stratigraphical Time, Temporalityand Change

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  • View in gallery View in gallery
    Hutton’s unconformities: left—Jedburgh (Hutton 1795, plate 3); right—Siccar Point (Sutherland 2015).
  • View in gallery
    An illustration from Barrell (1917, reproduced in Miall 2015) of how an apparently continuous stratigraphical record (left) can be made up of brief periods of preserved deposition (black bands at top) separated by significant gaps, which results from the interference between three phases of relative sea-level rise and fall: A—long term relative rise in sea-level; B—low frequency, high amplitude cycle; C—high frequency, low amplitude cycle.10
  • View in gallery
    International Commission on Stratigraphy Chronostratigraphic Chart.
  • View in gallery
    Lithostratigraphy, showing four rock units being formed: coastal plain sediments containing vegetation, overlying coarse beach sand, overlying silty mid-slope sediments, and finally overlying deep marine muds. Crosscutting timelines are shown as dashed sigmoidal lines perpendicular to lithostratigraphical boundaries.
  • View in gallery
    Simplified illustration of the four repeating packages of sediment in a sequence stratigraphic cycle, where the vertical axis is depth/thickness, showing change in sea level (SL) and position on a sine curve of relative sea level (H=high, L=low, t=time): a. Highstand (yellow); b. Falling stage (green); c. Lowstand (purple); d. Transgression (sky blue); e. succeeding set of stages.
  • View in gallery
    Simplified illustration of two cycles of the four repeating packages in the sequence stratigraphy model (alternative representation of fig. 5e), where the vertical axis is time: Highstand (yellow); Falling stage (green); Lowstand (purple); Transgression (sky blue). The sine curve of relative sea level is shown on the right, with peaks linked to highstand and troughs linked to lowstand.
  • View in gallery
    Comparison between (a) linear, (b) cyclical, and (c) sinusoidal.

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