Location & Geology

Located 15km south of Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, Germany, the Messel pit is some 60m deep and measures 1km by 0.7km, the exact lateral extent of the oil shale. The shale is bounded by 71m of clastics below and 30m above and is lenticular, measuring at its maximum thickness 190m. The Messel lithology is a dark brown-olive green lacustrine (lake) claystone and contains 5-20% petroleum. Seilacher (1985) called it a limnic stagnation deposit. Sedimentation rate was only 0.1mm per year and included steady smectite (clay) rich deposition and highly organic laminae from seasonal algal blooms.

The lake formed in an area of subsidence, during a period of high local tectonic activity. It is believed that the area was active during the Early Geiseltalian (Eocene), and intermitent earth movements released gases into the lake and into the surrounding atmosphere, killing any organisms in the area. A similar event occured in August 1986, in the Central African Cameroon Highlands, when volcanic Lake Nyos released CO2 killing life for several kilometers, including people. High amounts of siderite in the Messel oil shale indicates that CO2 was in high concentrations in deep waters. Many other chemicals found in the shale can be used in ecological analyses.

 

Messel Pit 2002

  1. Fauna and Flora
  2. Preservation and Taphonomy
  3. Museums and Links
  4. Title Page