Devonian Living 400 Mio. yrs ago

Fascination Hunsruck Slate

A guide to a unique Fossil Lagerstatte

“And in the huts the splitters sit day in, day out and year after year, splitting the thick slabs to the thickness of roofing slate. Now and then they find figures and put them sideways ”.

The classic site Bundenbach in Southwest Germany, Hunsruck region, counting over 270 animal species is the most important fossil occurrence worldwide from the (Lower) Devonian period, around 400 million years ago.

The fossils owe the uniqueness of their preservation to special circumstances. The remains of organisms are often pyritized as a result of early diagnostic bacterial processes and, in addition to mechanical preparation, allow imaging using X-ray technology.

The fact that the fossils were preserved during the subsequent mountain formation in the Carboniferous (350 - 280 million) is thanks to a particular stroke of luck: The marine deposits were pressed into the depths under enormous pressure and clamped between the continents Gondwana (Ur -Africa) in the South and Laurussia in the North. The tectonic forces (foliation) acted almost exactly perpendicular to the original stratification, which is why the fossils were not sheared but were preserved.
Its use as roofing slate can be traced back to the Roman fortress of Xanten. The village of Bundenbach was first mentioned in documents in 1283. The systematic mining started at the beginning of the 16th century and was spread over over 600 pits in the area. While the "figures" in the stone were initially kept as whims of nature, their scientific significance was first recognized in 1862 by C.F. Römer. With the discovery of X-rays in 1895, the fossils could be made photographically visible. The use of this technique by W.M. Lehmann 1932 onwards, allowed for the first time a gentle preparation of the often filigree fossils. Between 1970 and 1986 W. Stürmer, a physicist at Siemens, carried out around 30,000 high-resolution X-rays - a valuable source of scientific research.
The spectacular abundance of fossils and their preservation Prof. A. Seilacher considered exemplary for „Fossillagerstätten - a term that is in the following used worldwide for "rocks that contain an unusual amount of palaeontological information in terms of quality and quantity." 

The paleoenvironment, long time the subject of controversial discussions, was only rudimentarily clarified in 1997 as a result of the „Nahecaris“ Project.

Just when after a long interruption scientific investigation of this worlwide unique fossil site was intensified again, the roof slate mining in Bundenbach (Eschenbach-Bocksberg quarry) was stopped in 1999 due to economical reasons.


The findings of  Sea Lilies, Starfish, Crabs and Fish have been famous for 150 years - there is no prominent natural science museum that does not exhibit Bundenbach Fossils, revealing incredible details.

Bundenbach is also the place where the early history of the arthropods can be studied, here fossils were found that explain the morphology and way of life of today's arthropods.

Bundenbach_Schinderhannes_bartelsi_MNHM_NHM PWL 1994-52 LS

Scientists along with Prof. J. Rust at the University of Bonn are still primarily concerned with this topic. They have described sensational finds recently, for example the famous Arthropod Schinderhannes, named after the legendary "Robin Hood" of the Hunsruck.

Another unique find is Captopodus poschmanni, named in honor of M. Poschmann from the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate. An enigmatic, Arthropod, that probably moved by swimming.


"It is very regrettable that such finds cannot be seen in their entirety in a modern information center in Bundenbach itself, so that the finds would do justice to their worldwide importance" (Dr. Wuttke). Bundenbach - a site that deserves Unesco World Heritage status!

It is all the more important to preserve these fossil treasures and to recall their uniqueness. To remind these fossils, to intensify contacts with collectors, and possibly to give old pieces a new shine through a professional preparation - this hope is connected with this page. Get inspired!