Around 44 million years ago, several eruptions within a few days blew a crater into the landscape that had a diameter of around 1,000 metres. This filled with water and a lake was formed that had a depth of 110 to 150 metres. At that time, the global climate was largely uniformly warm, which caused animals and especially plants to multiply explosively. Dead plant parts were deposited on the bottom. Added to this were clay particles from the surroundings. This led to the lake slowly silting up until it became a dry maar after 250,000 to 300,000 years.
Today, the 500-metre-long cauldron resembles an open-cast mine in miniature, with steps, paths and warning signs. The reason for this is scientific excavations at regular intervals since 1987, coordinated by the Mainz Museum of Natural History together with the Rhineland-Palatinate State Collection of Natural History. So far, more than 400 square metres have been excavated. The more than 30,000 valuable finds have turned the oldest maar in the Eifel into a world-famous excavation site. Every year, excavations provide new data on volcanism in the Eifel, climate change and evolution.
The site became famous in particular for the skeleton of the "Eckfelder Urpferdchen", a horse about 50 centimetres tall that probably lived in our latitudes almost 45 million years ago. This and other impressive discoveries can be marvelled at in the Eckfeld Cabinet of the Maarmuseum Manderscheid.
But a tour of excavation sites also makes the hearts of every recreational palaeontologist leap for joy. Of course, it is not permitted to enter the site and dig on one's own, as the area has been a protected monument since 1988, but information boards around the dry maar present the various finds and the findings derived from them in an exciting way for visitors. And when do you ever have the opportunity to look so closely at a site where millions of years old fossils have been found?
Parking: It is not possible to drive directly to the Trockenmaar by car. It is recommended that you park your car at the sports field in Eckfeld and take a short hike from there to the excavation site.