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Altmuehl River Valley

We discovered the fossil richness of Germany in our visits to Eichstädt and Rügen. We traveled away from the city Nürnberg to explore for fossils. We were heading toward the Altmühl river valley, a valley that spanned multiple towns such as Solnhofen and Eichstädt(ike-sh-tad-t), our destination. In paleontological past, the Altmühl river valley was an archipelago; today in the valley, both land and marine fossils can be found. In fact, a key element of the dinosaur-bird connection was discovered there: the Archeopterix. Since then, other paleontologists have discovered other Archeopterix and bird-like dinosaurs in the area.

In Heidelberg, we were warned it we would not likely discover such a find, as the fossils are quite sparse. Despite the warning, we remained undeterred. We took train after train to finally catch one of the valley’s few taxis to a quarry high up one of the sides of the valley. It was amusing that there was a Tyrannosaur statue at the top of the quarry. This was definitely not a geographic location where Tyrannosaur fossils would be found, nor was it even the right time period. We claimed our hammers and chisels just before a schoolbus of children flooded in. While there we found many fossils such as ammonites and interesting brittlestar-like creatures. Towards the end of our visit, we ventured up higher on the matrix to a less-occupied plateau. There we discovered a father and son efficiently mining their way into the many layers of limestone. Among the foot or so of rock they had cleared away were flat pieces that they had deemed worthy of keeping. Their best find was a shrimp, which was very exquisitely detailed in an untarnished slab. They told us in previous years they had found fish and bones from marine specimens. We were happy with our finds, but it was interesting to hear about what they had found on previous visits to the seemingly fossil barren quarry. To find good fossils, one must have the right technique, like our Brownie beach low-tide winter visits.