IMPORTANCE OF SOLNHOFEN

One of the world’s most famous fossil deposits is located in Bavaria in Southern Germany, halfway between Nuremberg and Munich.   The Solnhofen limestone formations, Plattenkalk, are a Jurassic age Konservat-Laggerstätte.   

 

A Konservat-Laggerstätte is a deposit known for the exceptional preservation of fossilized organisms or traces. The Solnhofen Plattenkalk preserve a rare assemblage of the biota that lived during the Jurassic, including exceptionally preserved soft bodied and soft tissues of animals as well as plants. 

 

Solnhofen is best known for the early feathered theropod dinosaur, Archaeopteryx.  The fossils of these deposits are among the best preserved and most famous in the world.  

The Solnhofen limestone has been quarried for a very long time. This commercial activity brought to light some of the most important and best-preserved fossils ever found.  The iconic fossil, Archaeopteryx, is the most famous.  The limestone is approximately 150 million years old. 

HISTORY

The world famous Solnhofen limestone has been quarried since the Stone Age. The Romans quarried the limestone and used it for tile.  Later in history, the lithographic printing press was invented and portions of the Solnhofen limestone, that were finely grained, were used for printing on these giant printing presses.  

 

Many of the churches in Europe have Solnhofen limestone tile on their floors. The limestone was also used as roofing material.  These roofs are still visible in the area.  The quarrying activity was economically important to the area. Many Turkish workers came to Germany to work in the quarries.  The limestone is hand quarried and cut by hand into tiles.

The world famous Solnhofen Limestone quarries are found in Southern Germany, between Nuremberg and Munich in the Altmühl River Valley.  The quarries generally stretch from Langenaltenheim in the west to Regensburg in the east.

There are literally hundreds of quarries in the general Solhofen area.  Some quarries are large-scale commercial operations and others are basically pits dug in the forest where the limestone was found.  The two maps to the right show the distribution of the plattenkalks and the towns near the quarries.  The additional map shows the same area during the Jurassic period and where the coral reefs and lagoons were located. 

The Foundation's Solnhofen collection now contains over 2,000 individual specimens.  The charts to the right provide a general idea of the breadth of the collection.  

 

Each specimen is cataloged, labeled and filed taxonomically.  The specimen pictures are a small sample of the collection.