Coastal sand dunes are sediment archives which can be used to reconstruct periods of aridity and humidity, past wind strength and variations in the sediment supply related to sea-level changes. In this manner, the sedimentary record of fossil coastal dunes in Sri Lanka provides evidence for environmental and climatic changes during the late Pleistocene and Holocene. As yet, these environmental shifts are poorly resolved because the sedimentary facies and their depositional architecture have not been studied and only very few age constraints are available. Facies analysis of a lithological section at the Point Kurdimalai sea cliff in the Wilpattu National Park (NW Sri Lanka) reveals a striking resemblance to the stratigraphic succession associated with the Teri Sands in southeastern India, which is better dated. The reason is that deposition occurred under the same geological, climatic and geomorphological conditions in the two regions. This special situation allows for litho- and climate stratigraphic correlations across the Gulf of Mannar and links the landscape evolution at Point Kudrimalai to late Quaternary climatic events and sea-level changes. Our results show that the formation of red coastal dunes (Red Beds) in Sri Lanka was a multi-phase process across the Pleistocene–Holocene boundary and hence the differentiation between an Older Group of Plio-Pleistocene age (including the Red Beds) and a Younger Group of Holocene age in the Quaternary stratigraphic chart for Sri Lanka is not justified.
free text keywords: 555, Gulf of Mannar, Indian winter monsoon, palaeo-environment, post-glacial transgression, red coastal dunes, sea level, stratigraphy