Saale complex

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Maximum ice edge position (Drenthe Stadium) of the Saale complex (yellow line). The red line also shows the greatest extent in the Vistula glacial period .

The hall complex is after the Stratigraphic Table of Germany 2016 (STD 2016) the period of the Middle Pleistocene between the end of the Holstein interglacial period (before 0.3 million years ago) and the beginning of the Eemian (before 0,126,000 years). Its main component is the second of the larger glaciations through a Scandinavian inland ice sheet in northern Europe and northern eastern, central and western Europe. The Saale complex is divided into two sections. The “Lower Saale” section is also known as the “Saale Early Glacial”. The section "Upper Saale", also referred to in literature as "Middle and Upper Saale Glacial" or "Younger Saale Ice Age " , is the Saale Ice Age (in older literature and colloquially also called " Saale Ice Age "). The glaciation took place through several ice advances, each with a glacial series . In the case of an intermediate layer with signs of a warmer climate, they are referred to as a stage and in the absence of such a phase.

Naming and conceptual history

The name is derived from the Saale , a tributary of the Elbe . The geologists Jakob Stoller and Konrad Keilhack coined the term “Saale Ice Age” in 1910. The term should replace the older term "penultimate ice age". With the expansion of knowledge in the 1960s, especially on warm-time deposits, the term was no longer sufficient and the term “saale-glacial complex” was coined. In 1992 the term changed into Saale complex was officially introduced by the INQUA sub-commission for European Quaternary Stratigraphy – SEQS.

Correlation and Dating

After the STD 2016, the beginning of the Saale complex coincides with the end of the marine oxygen isotope zone MIS 8 (0.300 million years ago). The upper limit correlates with the end of the marine oxygen isotope zone MIS 5e (0.126 million years ago). The Saale complex is of the same age as the Riss glaciation of the Alpine region.


Saale / Riß glacial period compared to the Weichsel / Würm glacial period. The actual cold periods were interrupted by warmer periods in which the archaic people of Europe ( Homo heidelbergensis - later the Neanderthals ) spread beyond the permafrost limit to the north and northeast. From around 40,000 BC. Modern humans ( Cro-Magnon humans ) populated these areas.

The maximum advance of the Fennoscan Ice Sheet during the Drenthe Stadium can be described in northern Germany with the line Düsseldorf - Paderborn - Hameln - Goslar - Eisleben - Zeitz - Meißen - Görlitz . From the eastern edge of the Harz to the east ( Poland , Brandenburg , Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt ), the ice advance was about 10 to 50 km behind the maximum advance of the Elster glaciation. At the northern edge of the Harz, both distribution limits are the same; west of the Harz, the ice of the Saale complex reached more than 100 km further south than the ice of the Elster Glaciation. Before this line, i.e. H. in front of the former glaciers, fluvial and periglacial sediments are widespread. In the Drenthe Stadium, today's North Sea basin, Great Britain and Ireland were also affected.

Structure of the Saale complex

The “Lower Saale” section began with the

  • Fuhne cold period, initially referred to as "Fuhne cold fluctuation". After the end of the Holstein warm period, the warmth-loving deciduous forest was displaced from northern Germany and subarctic vegetation spread. The Fuhne-Kaltzeit is divided into three parts, between the Stadiale Fuhne A and Fuhne B the Interstadial A / B (Pritzwalk-Interstadial) is switched on.

and was completed with the

  • Dömnitz / Wacken warm period. After the end of the Fuhne glacial period, the thermophilic deciduous forest with oak , hazel and hornbeam expanded again . The occurrence of the great algae fern ( Azolla filiculoides ) is worth mentioning .

The “Obere Saale” section began with the Delitzsch phase, followed by the Drenthe and Warthe stadiums. Construction of the inland ice sheet began in Scandinavia during the Delitzsch phase. In the Drenthe stage, northern Central Europe was covered by the inland glacier, which is why it is also called Saale Glacial or "Saale Glaziation".

  • Delitzsch phase. In the Delitzsch phase officially introduced in 1993 by the Sub-Commission for European Quaternary Stratigraphy, the large-scale main terrace in the river valleys of Central Germany was raised as a result of the glacial climate .
  • Drenthe Stadium, after the province of Drenthe in the eastern Netherlands. The Drenthe stage corresponds to the maximum inland ice spread in the Saale complex. For northern Germany two ground moraine banks are usually described, these have the status of phases:
    • Drenthe I phase ( main Drenthe )
    • Drenthe II phase ( Younger Drenthe ): Opinions differ on the number of ice advances, but there are no indisputable traces of interstadial advances between the advances from northern Germany.
  • Seyda interval. The stratigraphic position of the Seyda interval is uncertain, but it is seen in recent literature as the only evidence for the period between the Drenthe stage and the Warta stage. There are no signs of an interstadial climate.
  • Warta stage. The term "Warthe icing", first introduced by Paul Woldstedt , was converted in 1929 into the term "Warthestadium", which is still used today. Since the 1930s, the independence of a “Warthe icing” has been discussed again and again. This was ruled out in the 1950s because there were no interglacial layers with a pollen pattern that deviated from the Eem warm period and marine deposits. The only reason for this was the locality of Hemmoor, but its stratigraphic position was too uncertain. According to Woldstedt, the space between the Drenthe and Warta stadiums should at least be a “main interstate”. In the 1960s, fossil soils were seen as evidence of a “Treene Warm Period” between the Drenthe and Warthe stages. The suitability of fossil soils as a guaranteed warm-period formation was questioned, but a "large interstadial" was considered very likely.

In Central Germany, the structure of the sequence corresponding to the Drenthe stage is more reliable due to the interlinking of glacial and fluvial sediment series. From Eißmann (1975) a distinction is made between:

  • Zeitz phase: the first and furthest south to Zeitz reaching Saale ice advance, it probably corresponds to the Drenthe I phase of northern Germany.
  • Pomßen interval: in a short retreat phase, mainly meltwater sands and, as a result of the resurgent river activity, river gravel were deposited in the dead ice fields. Also in many more recent publications it was repeatedly emphasized that there are no organogenic sediments with indications of an interstadial climate and that the two enclosing ice advances are therefore only phases. On the basis of older archive documents, however, an interstadial, the so-called “Engelsdorf-Interstadial”, has recently been described.
  • Leipzig phase: last, two-part Saale ice advance only reaching south of Leipzig , it probably corresponds to the Drenthe II phase in northern Germany. According to Eißmann (1994), the period from the melting of the inland ice of the Zeitz phase to the Eem warm period, in which the Warta ice advance took place in northern Germany, is not documented by sediments in central Germany.

In central Germany, in the transition area to the periglacial area, there were indications of a warm period between the Drenthe and Warta glaciers, which led to doubts about the uniqueness of the forest history of the Eem warm period. They were rejected as unfounded. In the meantime there are numerous new findings that confirm the doubts about the uniqueness of the pollen picture of the individual warm periods and also the other findings in northern Germany, see above. The secured stratigraphic position of the so-called "Upper Lower Terrace" near Grimma and the ostracodal fauna of the interglacial basins of Neumark-Nord ( Geiseltal ) play an important role. A discussion about this has not yet started again.


  • Leopold Benda (ed.): The Quaternary of Germany . Borntraeger, Berlin / Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-443-01031-8 (408 pages).
  • Lothar Eißmann : The Quaternary of the Leipzig lowland bay and adjacent areas around the Saale and Elbe . In: Series of publications for geological sciences . No. 1 . Berlin 1975, p. 1-263 .
  • Lothar Eißmann: Basic features of the Quaternary geology of Central Germany (Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, southern Brandenburg, Thuringia) . In: Altenburger scientific research . No. 7 . Altenburg / Thuringia 1994, p. 55-135 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b German Stratigraphic Commission, Ed .; Editing, coordination and design: M. Menning & A. Hendrich: Stratigraphische Tisch von Deutschland 2016 . Potsdam 2016 [1]
  2. ^ Lothar Lippstreu: VI. Brandenburg. In: Leopold Benda (Ed.): The Quaternary of Germany. Pp. 116-147, Berlin Stuttgart 1995
  3. ^ Lothar Eißmann: VIII. Saxony. In: Leopold Benda (Ed.): The Quaternary of Germany. Pp. 171-198, Berlin Stuttgart 1995
  4. ^ A b c Thomas Litt, Karl-Ernst Behre, Klaus-Dieter Meyer, Hans-Jürgen Stephan, Stefan Wansa: Stratigraphic terms for the Quaternary of the north German glaciation area. In: Ice Age and the Present Quaternary Science Journal. Volume 56 (1/2). Hanover 2007. pp. 7-65
  5. a b Klaus Erd: Pollen analysis of the middle Pleistocene guide profile Pritzwalk-Prignitz. In: Ice Age and the Present. Volume 16. Öhringen / Württemberg 1965. pp. 252-253
  6. Alexander Georg Cepek: On the structure of the Middle Pleistocene in the northeast German lowlands. In: Ice Age and the Present. Volume 16. Öhringen / Württemberg 1965. p. 255
  7. ^ A b Thomas Litt, Charles Turner: Results of the work of the sub-commission for European Quaternary Stratigraphy: The Saale sequence in the type region (reports of SEQS 10). In: Ice Age and the Present. Volume 43. Krefeld 1993. pp. 125-128
  8. Wolfram Knoth: To the knowledge of the Pleistocene middle terraces of the Saale and Mulde north of Halle. In: Geology. Volume 13, Berlin 1964. pp. 598-616
  9. Klaus Erd, Hans Palme, Friedhelm Präger: Holstein interglacial deposits from Rossendorf near Dresden. In: Journal of Geological Sciences. Volume 15 (3). Berlin 1987. pp. 281-295
  10. Burchard Menke: Contributions to the biostratigraphy of the Middle Pleistocene in Northern Germany (pollen analysis studies from West Holstein). In: Meyniana. Volume 18, Kiel 1968. pp. 35-42
  11. ^ Klaus Erd: Vegetation development and biostratigraphy of the Dömnitz warm period (Fuhne / Saale 1) in the profile of Pritzwalk (Prignitz). In: Treatises of the Central Geological Institute. Issue 18. Berlin 1973. pp. 9-48
  12. ^ Klaus-Dieter Meyer: On the stratigraphy of the Saale glacial in Lower Saxony and on correlation attempts with neighboring areas. In: Ice Age and the Present . Volume 55. Hannover 2005. pp. 25-42
  13. ^ Ansgar Müller: The Quaternary in the central Elbe region between Riesa and Dessau. Dissertation University of Halle. Halle / Saale 1988. 129 pages
  14. ^ Paul Woldstedt: About the extent of the last glaciation in northern Germany. In: Meeting reports of the Prussian geological state institute. Issue 2. Berlin 1927. pp. 115–119
  15. Paul Woldstedt: The Ice Age. Baseline of a geology of the Diluvium. Stuttgart (Enke) 1929. 406 pages
  16. ^ Paul Woldstedt: Saale Ice Age, Warthestadium and Weichsel Ice Age in Northern Germany. In: Ice Age and the Present. Volume 4/5. Öhringen / Württemberg. Pp. 34-48
  17. Erich Kolumbe: Evidence of a warm period between the old and central crack in Lower Saxony. In: Communications from the Geological State Institute in Hamburg. Issue 22, Hamburg 1952. pp. 22-27
  18. Helmut E. Stremme: The warm periods before and after the Warta Ice Age in their soil formations near Böxlund (west of Flensburg). In: New Yearbook for Geology and Paleontology, monthly books. Stuttgart 1964. pp. 237-247
  19. K. Picard: Classification of Pleistocene deposits with fossil soils near Husum / North Sea. In: New Yearbook for Geology and Paleontology, monthly books. Stuttgart 1959. pp. 237-247
  20. Erwin Kopp, Paul Woldstedt: About the character of the warm time between Drenthe and Warthe stadial in northern Germany. In: Ice Age and the Present. Volume 16. Öhringen / Württemberg 1965. pp. 37-46
  21. Roland Fuhrmann: The Engelsdorf Interstadial between the two Saale inland ice advances in the Leipzig area. In: Mauritiana. Volume 32. Altenburg 2017. pp. 106–117 [2]
  22. ^ Roland Fuhrmann: The stratigraphic position of the interglacial of Grabschütz (Delitzsch district) and the structure of the Saale complex. In: Journal of Geological Sciences. Volume 17 (10), Berlin 1989, pp. 1002-1004 [3]
  23. Lothar Eißmann: Remarks on the scientific information 'The stratigraphic position of the interglacial of Grabschütz (Leipzig district) and the structure of the Saale complex.' by Roland Fuhrmann (Z. geol. Wiss., 17, 10, Berlin 1989). In: Altenburger scientific research. Issue 5. Altenburg 1990, pp. 300-301
  24. Roland Fuhrmann: Warthe cold period or Warthe stage - for the stratigraphic structure of the younger Quaternary. In: Mauritiana. Volume 22. Altenburg 2011, pp. 77-93 [4]
  25. Roland Fuhrmann: The Upper Lower Terrace of the Mulde near Grimma (Saxony) and the stratigraphic structure of the younger Quaternary. In: Mauritiana. Volume 20 (1). Altenburg 2007, pp. 93-105 [5]
  26. Roland Fuhrmann: The ostracod fauna of the interglacial basins of Neumark-Nord (Geiseltal, Saxony-Anhalt) and their statement on the stratigraphic position. In: Mauritiana. Volume 32. Altenburg 2017, pp. 40-105 [6]