Hunsrück Slate: Widespread Pyritization
of a Devonian Fauna
THE LOWER DEVONIAN HUNSRÜCK SLATE (HUNSRÜCKschiefer) of Germany is a conservation Lagerstätte that has become famous for the occurrence of pyritized echinoderms, arthropods, and other taxa. The pyritization is associated not only with skeletons, but also with nonmineralized soft parts. This situation is reminiscent of Beecher's Trilobite Bed (Chapter 7). But while pyritization in the latter locality is confined to trilobites, the Hunsrück Slate has yielded preserved soft parts in a variety of taxa, including cnidarians, ctenophores, cephalopods, tentaculites, annelids, arthropods, and echinoderms (Bartels and Brassel 1990; Bergström 1990; Bartels 1994; Bartels, Briggs, and Brassel 1998; Raiswell, Bartels, and Briggs 2001). These fossils were mainly benthic and nektobenthic animals that were embedded by rapid episodic burial (Bartels and Brassel 1990; Bergström 1990; Brett and Seilacher 1991). Thus, as with Beecher's Trilobite Bed, the Hunsrück Slate is classified as an obrution deposit (Seilacher, Reif, and Westphal 1985; Brett and Seilacher 1991).
It is not known exactly when quarrying in the Hunsrück near the German village of Bundenbach started, but by the end of the Middle Ages the production of roofing slates was already well established (Bartels 1995). During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, quarrying of the slates had become a major branch of industry in this mainly agricultural region (Bartels 1995; Bartels, Briggs, and Brassel 1998). Quarrying techniques have changed little over the centuries, and during roofslate production, fossils were undoubtedly found a few hundred years ago (Bartels 1995; Bartels, Briggs, and Brassel 1998). It was not before