Echinoderms, cephalopods and sea lilies take the stage as key witnesses to a spectacular process. 650 authentic contemporaries give an exciting account of the Devonian sound of the sea and tropical beaches
Tools used by people in the Stone Age people tell tales from the eventful history of the Sauerland, an upland region with an ancient settlement history.
Life in the Devonian Period
About 380 million years ago, the area of the district of Olpe was covered by a shallow shelf sea. Its geographical location was close to the equator and its water and air temperatures reached levels at least as high as those known from the tropics today.
The water was teeming with living creatures such as corals, fish, shells – just as contemporary tropical seas. The land areas were full of life as well, with low-growing plants and small amphibious vertebrates.
This exhibition unit, which comprises roughly 650 finds from 120 sites, showcases the palaeontology of the Attendorn-Elspe double basin. The exhibits mainly date back to the Devonian period and tell the story of a tropical sea, long-forgotten disasters and ephemeral mountain ranges.
About 368 million years ago, the coral reef died as a result of rising sea levels. This process, which today would most certainly be considered an ecological disaster, led to the formation of reef limestone from the Devonian coral reef, in which uncountable crevices and caves formed over the course of millions of years. The circulating water contained excessive amounts of dissolved lime. As a result, lime sinter was deposited in the cavities, creating bizarre stone formations and sparkling crystals.
Pre- and early history
The history of the geological formations, climate fluctuations, flora and fauna, and early humans can be reconstructed through scientific research and archaeological finds. It is known that a succession of ice ages (Pleistocene) began in Europe about 2.6 million years ago, during which glaciers advanced from Scandinavia all the way to Westphalia. These ice ages were interrupted by warm periods that were similar to today’s climate. The human and animal bones that were mainly found in the caves of the Sauerland region give evidence of the Ice Age. The bone finds of cave bears, cave lions, mammoths or woolly rhinoceroses prove that the fauna in ancient times differed profoundly from what we see in southern Westphalia today. The first stone artifacts, i.e. man-made stone tools, also date back to the Pleistocene.
The Stone Age is the first of the three historical stages on a timeline of Europe’s prehistory and early history, in which the epochs are named after the materials mainly used.
The oldest finds from the Stone Age were made in Africa (Ethiopia) and are believed to be around 2.6 million years old, whereas the oldest finds from Northern Europe are around 600,000 years old, and the oldest datable finds from the Sauerland around 70,000 years. The transition to metal tools and weapons marked the beginning of the Bronze Age and then of the Iron Age.