Franconia on the Jurassic Beach - petrified treasures from the Wattendorf lagoon
Extended until further notice
A clear blue sky arching over an island archipelago, a tropical sea lapping against its shores. Crocodiles and sharks hunt for prey between reefs while turtles lay their eggs in the warm sand on the beach. A scene from the Seychelles or Maldives? Not quite. During the late Jurassic period some 150 million years ago, this was the sea that covered our region.
In a stone quarry near the village of Wattendorf, just outside our doorstep so to speak, a window to this bizarre, forgotten underwater world has been thrown wide open. Join us on a journey through time and let the fossilized creatures that we unearthed for you provide insight into their mysterious world!
A few years ago our museum's taxidermist Thomas Bechmann surprised us all when he brought in some unexpected fossils he had found from a quarry in the Upper Franconian village of Wattendorf. Enclosed within thin limestone slabs were the remains of fish and crabs. Had he discovered the fossils in a quarry near the village of Solnhofen or Eichstatt, it would not have come as a big surprise. Fossils from the world-famous Solnhofen are regularly exposed during industrial excavations. Stones and fossils of this kind originating from the region of Upper Franconia had been hitherto unheard of.
The Wattendorf Plattenkalk is a geographically restricted occurrence, which also extends to only a few layers within the quarry. The stones are much more fossil-rich than those found typically found in the Solnhofen Plattenkalk. In addition to terrestrial plants and invertebrates such as snails, clams, crabs and the like, we were also able to retrieve a wide variety of fish during several excavations. Particularly noteworthy are several angel sharks reaching over one meter in length. Even more spectacular are the coelacanths, one of which is said to be the largest and best preserved specimen ever discovered in Jurassic plattenkalks. To top it all off, remains of some of the rarest and most beautiful species such as complete turtles, dinosaur snakes, crocodiles and a pterosaurs were likewise found.
The lithographic plattenkalk deposits of Wattendorf settled in a shallow tropical sea some 150 million years ago (Late Jurassic Period). So-called "index fossils" tell us that the rocks are older than any previously known plattenkalk formations of the Late Jurassic period. This truth ultimately manifests itself in the fact that many Wattendorfer fossils consist of new i.e. thus far uncharted species — an extraordinary challenge for science indeed.
In addition to the sensational fossil discoveries, you can also find out more about the geological and biological background of the fascinating Jurassic period in the special exhibitionn.
Entering the Wattendorfer quarry is strictly forbidden. The area is continually monitored to prevent trespassing. Furthermore, it is not worthwhile to look for fossils, since the fossil-bearing strata are only exposed by diggers during the excavation periods.
Adopt a fossil!
Preparing Wattendorfer fossils generally requires considerable effort. Most fossils are still covered with layers of limestone, ... read more