Maybe you think that they have little to do with panning for gold in Katzhütte, the place we again took the grandchildren to on Saturday, 22.09.2012. As with a lot of my life, there’s method in the madness, however.
If I recite
“Pregnant camels ordinarily sit down carefully, perhaps their joints creak”
I can manage
Precambrian Cambrian Ordovician Silurian Devonian
Präkambrium Kambrium Ordovizium Silur Devon
Carboniferous Permian Triassic Jurassic Cretaceous
Carbon Perm Trias Jura Kreide
The earliest crushing and pushing and boiling and twisting processes that have gone on in the rocks of the area have been dated to about 570 million years ago, as pregnant (sorry, Precambrian) was nearing camel (i.e. Cambrian). And humps are not a bad description of the amazing geological processes which then went on, for these wooded hills seem once to have been the fringes of Gondwana. Plate tectonics explains that this was a huge landmass parting from the original great single continent of Pangea. The land that now underlies Katzhütte was a subduction zone, it is thought. It seems to have been in the southern tropics at the time and in the Cambrian period to have had long spells of being upthrust so that when another ten or so million years have passed and the basement was heaved under the water level again the layers of rock deposit we now find to be missing (particularly in drillings) are described as an unconformity. But near the goldwashing site there are places where the very oldest rocks are actually at the surface, there to touch and walk on.
Above them, fringing the path, is the Frauenbach series, ancient enough… thin friable slate, metamorphosed from shale deposited once as muddy sediment season by season… “ordinarily” in the Ordovician… they are now,however, either steeply angled or exactly vertical. We walked by them with the sense of the unalterable that a hilly, moss-lined, bracken-fringed path conveys on a September afternoon in mid-Germany. But what must have been the earthquakes that turned them on their edge.
Such forces raise the temperature in rock and in the cracks there can be crystallization of minerals from the hot steamy suspensions as things cool down. So on Saturday we walked over a cross-bar of quartz in the path we took. Quartz that when it was crystallizing out might well have had particles of gold or other minerals mixed in it.
The gentler forces of wind and rain, frost and sun, and the ever downward flow of water have worked away, getting the gold into the gravel bed of the streams now flowing over the ancient rocks where enthusiasts last Saturday panned for the tiny specks, the Kubitz family walked and its youngest member would have stayed for ever like a sprite under the bridge.
I do hope there are people out there reading this. To get my mind round the geological ages took me – well, ages! Many thanks to Dr Donau, who will, I hope, hear from me personally one day as it was his website, http://www.geologie-katzhuette.de/index.html that helped me on my trail. All sorts of exciting facts presented themselves – like the fact that the Cadomian unconformity is named after Caen in Northern France and that Cadomia and Florida must have been connected as one series of strata in the “pregnant” Precambrian period.