Thuringian Basin

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Sub-natural areas of the Thuringian Basin including edge slabs

The Thuringian Basin is a basin landscape in the central and northern part of Thuringia . It extends from the upper Unstrut below Dingelstädts to the lower Ilm near Bad Sulza about 90 kilometers in the direction west-northwest-east-southeast and from the Wipper breakthrough below Seegas to the Gera inlet near Arnstadt about 55 kilometers from north-northeast to south-southwest. Its area is around 2700 square kilometers and thus around one sixth of the area of ​​Thuringia with around 650,000 inhabitants (population density 163 inhabitants per km²). Most of the landscape is traversed by the Unstrut river system and is between 130 and 300  m above sea level. Above sea level.

In terms of natural space , the core basin represents the main unit of the same name within the main unit group Thuringian Basin (with edge plates) , to which the Gera-Unstrut lowland as part of the main unit Gera-Unstrut-Helme-lowland along the Gera from Erfurt and the Unstrut from the Gera estuary to must be added to the Thuringian Gate .


Location and limits

In the southern area of ​​the Thuringian Basin between Erfurt, Gotha and Arnstadt, in the background the Thuringian Forest with the Großer Inselsberg , on the left the Mühlburg in Mühlberg
The Thuringian Basin near Andisleben in the Gera floodplain in spring, with the diked river in front
Fields between Gebesee and Herbsleben

The core of the Thuringian Basin is the flat landscape to the right and left of the Unstrut, which is bordered by the following mountain ranges:

Apart from the south-west, the almost continuous border is only interrupted by a few valleys worth mentioning, the most important of which are the following (clockwise, starting in the west):

The last-mentioned valleys of Apfelstädt, Wildem Graben and Nesse along the Eichenberg-Gotha-Saalfeld fault zone are not particularly pronounced. The Keuper landscape of the (inner) West Thuringian mountain and hill country , adjoining to the southwest and draining almost completely to the Werra , continues the landscape character of the Thuringian basin with an overall somewhat higher location and a harsher climate to the southwest.

In the core basin itself, the inner Muschelkalk ridges of Fahnersche Höhe and Ettersberg separate a smaller, southern sub-basin between Arnstadt in the south, Erfurt in the north and Weimar in the extreme northeast.

In the southeast of the larger, northern sub-basin, the boundary of the basin with the Ilm-Saale-Platte near Apolda, which expires to the northeast, is topographically blurred.

Natural structure

In the handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany, the Thuringian Basin is the name given to the 2528 km² natural main unit 482 of the main unit group 47/48 Thuringian Basin (with edge plates) . It contains the core basin including the inner shell limestone hills Ettersberg , Fahner Höhe and Heilinger Höhen , but without the Gera-Unstrut lowland , which occupies around 200 km² and which, together with the Helme-Unstrut lowland beyond the Thuringian gate, forms its own main unit.

The basin landscape to the southwest beyond the Eichenberg – Gotha – Saalfelder fault zone forms the core area of ​​the neighboring main unit of West Thuringian mountain and hill country .

Central Thuringian hill country

The Thuringian State Institute for Environment and Geology (TLUG) has, among the natural areas of Thuringia on a slightly coarser, only nationwide one hurrying biogeographical system equipped with Inner Thüringer arable hills , the Thuringian basin in the strict sense with which southwest across Eichenberg-Gotha-Saalfeld fault zone adjoining pool the Hörselgau – Großenlupnitzer Mulde , the core basin of the West Thuringian mountain and hill country . This covers 2958 km², together with the island-like mountain ranges Fahner Höhe and Ettersberg as well as the also separately designated floodplains Gera-Unstrut-Niederung and Unstrutaue Mühlhausen-Bad Langensalza even 3226 km² and thus about a fifth of the area of ​​Thuringia.

The mountain ranges Krahnberg , Seeberge , Drei Gleichen and Heilinger Heights are not designated as sub-natural areas in that system; the outer boundaries of the basin landscape are overall somewhat wider than in the manual.


Main section for the outer height profile

The altitude of the Thuringian (core) basin decreases from the south and west to the east.

While the edge of the mountain ranges have the character of a low mountain range, in the interior, apart from Ettersberg and Fahnerscher Höhe, there are no really significant elevations.

In the following, the main edge plates, the southwest edge heights and inner elevations of the core basin are listed separately from each other and internally sorted according to the height above sea level:


The most important river in the Thuringian Basin is the Unstrut , which drains almost the entire basin. Only the Nesse in the southwest flows to the Weser and the Emsenbach in the southeast over the Ilm into the Saale.

Significant tributaries of the Unstrut in the basin are (from the source down):

Numerous small dams were built in the Thuringian Basin for the production of industrial water for agriculture in the case of frequent dry periods in summer, while there are practically no larger natural lakes. The Straussfurt flood retention basin with a maximum water surface of 9 km² is a large basin to protect against flooding on the Unstrut.


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The edges of the Thuringian basin are formed by shell limestone ridges (including Hainich , Oberes Eichsfeld , Dün , Hainleite , Schmücke , Randgrat der Finn , Reinsberge ). Geographically, the Thuringian Basin belongs to the Triassic period, in which horizontal layers of red sandstone , shell limestone and keuper were deposited. Underneath there are salt and gypsum deposits from the Zechstein . In the Tertiary , the surrounding mountain ranges were raised in fracture zones, while the Thuringian Basin emerged as a deeper clod.


Drought field with stunted young plants near Schernberg in April 2011 after less than half of the usual rainfall had fallen since February

The Thuringian Basin is one of the driest regions in Germany with annual rainfall of sometimes less than 500 mm. The natural area is represented by two weather stations, these are located in Artern northeast of the core zone and in Bindersleben (on the Alacher Höhe ). While the Arterner station is only 164 meters above sea level, the Bindersleben station is at 316  m . Artern can thus be regarded as representative of the deep parts of the basin located directly on the Unstrut, while Bindersleben is representative of the higher peripheral areas. The long-term mean precipitation (1961–1990) was 500 mm, the average temperature 7.9 ° C. In Artern it was 457 mm and 8.5 ° C. Characteristic for the climate is the sheltered location of the basin to the north ( Harz ), south ( Thuringian Forest ) and west ( Hessian mountains ). This ensures overall low precipitation and often long dry periods and a relatively low-wind, sunny climate. These factors, together with the fertile soil, create good conditions for high-yield agriculture. However, the area is also prone to crop failures due to droughts . While this used to be a major problem, now largely new drought-resistant varieties are being planted that can tolerate greater levels of drought.

Human geography

Districts, cities and places

The Thuringian Basin takes up almost the entire districts of Sömmerda and Unstrut-Hainich . Large parts of the Kyffhäuserkreis are also in the basin. In addition, there are parts of Weimarer Land (northwest), the Ilm district (north) and the district of Gotha (north).

The largest city in the Thuringian Basin is Erfurt with over 200,000 inhabitants. Like the other large cities, it lies on the edge of the basin, while smaller cities dominate the center. The major cities on the edge include Weimar (65,000 inhabitants), Gotha (45,000 inhabitants) and Arnstadt (25,000 inhabitants), Mühlhausen (36,000 inhabitants) and Bad Langensalza (18,000 inhabitants). The only big city in the center is Sömmerda (20,000 inhabitants). In addition, there are some small towns in the basin: Ebeleben and Schlotheim in the northwest, Großenehrich , Clingen , Greußen and Weißensee in the middle, Gebesee and Bad Tennstedt in the south, Kindelbrück and Kölleda in the northeast and Rastenberg , Eckartsberga , Buttstädt , Buttelstedt and Neumark in the southeast . With around 480 inhabitants, Neumark is one of the smallest cities in Germany. Characteristic of the cities are their old age and their mostly fortified city centers, which are characterized by very old buildings. This applies to big cities like Erfurt and Mühlhausen as well as to small cities like Weißensee or Buttstädt.

Compared to other areas, the villages in the Thuringian Basin are relatively large collections of homesteads and craftsmen's houses. By contrast, there are almost no individual settlements outside of the area. Many of these villages were fortified in different ways in the Middle Ages and developed into semi-urban places, for example Großengottern , Gräfentonna or Herbsleben , of which important buildings such as churches and moated castles are still evidence today. Many places still show a rather ancient appearance today, as new construction activity has been limited since the 19th century.

Settlement history

Due to its favorable living conditions, the Thuringian Basin has been humanly settled for a long time. For example, an approximately 400,000 year old human skeleton was found at the Bilzingsleben site , making it one of the oldest records of the homo genus in Central Europe. The Ehringsdorf primeval man is also very old at around 120,000 years.

Some settlement and numerous grave finds date from the centuries around the birth of Christ. In West Greussia there are remains of a Germanic settlement from the 2nd century BC. A Roman pottery from the 3rd century AD was discovered near Haarhausen , which documents the exchange processes between Roman Germania and the area of ​​the Thuringian Basin. Cemeteries and other finds from this period occur in high density in the Thuringian Basin and underline the importance as a settlement area.

After the postponements of the migration period and the emergence of the Thuringian Empire, continuous settlement probably began with the first local foundations. With the start of the written form in the region in the 8th / 9th In the 19th century there were already many villages that were now systematically written down for the first time, especially in monastery registers. The most important sources of this time are the Breviarium Sancti Lulli of the Hersfeld monastery , the Codex Eberhardi of the Fulda monastery or the Hersfeld tithe directory . Arnstadt , Mühlberg and Großmonra , which were mentioned in the Hedge deed of donation in 704, are among the oldest places that have come down to us in writing . Erfurt first appeared in 742 in connection with the foundation of the diocese by Bonifatius .

In the 11th / 12th The first urban settlements developed in the 19th century, initially without any correspondingly codified city ​​rights . In Erfurt they have been around since 1120. The former Free Imperial City of Mühlhausen is also one of the oldest and most important cities in the Thuringian Basin. Another group of wealthy cities were the woad towns , on whose markets the valuable dye plant woad was traded. This plant was cultivated and exported in the Thuringian Basin until the end of the Middle Ages. Overall, there has been a relatively high density of settlements in the Thuringian Basin for a long time.

The industrialization of the 19th century took place in the Thuringian Basin only to a small extent. In addition to the lack of natural raw materials such as coal or ores, the political fragmentation of the region, which either belonged to small Thuringian states or was a peripheral part of the Prussian province of Saxony, was a hindrance . The economy continued to focus on agriculture and animal husbandry and their subsequent industries such as meat processing, alcohol production and canning. The only exceptions to this were the big cities in the south of the basin, Erfurt and Gotha, in which some large-scale companies also settled, and Sömmerda, which experienced an upswing in the early 20th century due to the local armaments industry. Little changed in this structure during the GDR era and after reunification, apart from economic stimuli in the Erfurt region. As a result of the industrialization of agriculture, the yield and quality of the products rose sharply in the 20th century, at the same time unneeded workers were made available, and migration to cities and other regions began. As a result, the population in the villages and small towns of this rural area has been slowly declining for decades.

Administrative history

The Thuringian Basin was part of the heartland of the Thuringian Empire and later the Landgraviate of Thuringia , which fell to the Wettins in 1264 . After the division of Leipzig in 1485, parts of the basin along the Unstrut belonged to the Albertine areas and thus later to the Thuringian District of the Electorate of Saxony . Other areas remained Ernestine or were owned by Electorate Mainz and Schwarzburg or part of the free imperial city of Mühlhausen . The Albertine, Electoral Mainz and Mühlhausen territories fell to Prussia by 1815 at the latest and remained in the Prussian administrative districts of Erfurt and Merseburg (here in particular parts of the Eckartsberga / Kölleda district ) until 1945 . Northern and southern parts, however, belonged to the Thuringian states . After 1945 the entire area was assigned to the state of Thuringia , in the GDR 1952–1990 to the district of Erfurt . From 1990 the landscape with small exceptions in the northeast belonged to the newly formed Free State of Thuringia .


  • Ernst Kaiser: The Thuringian Basin between the Harz Mountains and the Thuringian Forest. Geographical-Cartographic Institute, Gotha 1954.
  • Gerd Seidel: The Thuringian Basin. Haack, Gotha 1978.
  • Erhard Rosenkranz: The Thuringian Basin and its peripheral areas. Self-published in 1986.

Web links

Commons : Thuringian Basin  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. According to TLUG, the Gera-Unstrut lowland covers 163 km², but the manual cuts the valley a little more generously.
  2. ^ Emil Meynen , Josef Schmithüsen (Ed.): Handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany . Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Remagen / Bad Godesberg 1953–1962 (9 deliveries in 8 books, updated map 1: 1,000,000 with main units 1960).
  3. Map services of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation ( information )
  4. ^ Walter Hiekel, Frank Fritzlar, Andreas Nöllert and Werner Westhus: The natural spaces of Thuringia . Ed .: Thuringian State Institute for Environment and Geology (TLUG), Thuringian Ministry for Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Environment . 2004, ISSN  0863-2448 . → Natural area map of Thuringia (TLUG) - PDF; 260 kB → Maps by district (TLUG)