Maltese pit at Heidelberg Castle

A fascinating window into earth's historyHeidelberg's geotope

Famous Heidelberg Castle hides many treasures. One of these, of which many visitors are unaware, is a geological feature from the Paleozoic period. This geological outcrop was named "2016 Geotope of the Year" by the Geo-Nature Park Bergstraße-Odenwald.

Maltese pit

Maltese pit at the castle.

Geotope: A window into the past

Geotopes are abiotic, natural formations that can act as "windows into geological history" and offer insight into the development of the earth and living things. They can include stone quarries, natural stone cliffs as well as special landscape formations, fossil sites or meteor impact craters. The Geo-Nature Park Bergstraße-Odenwald names a "Geotope of the Year" annually.

Maltese pit

A steep face with several strata.

Special geological formation

The steep face in the Maltese pit offers an unusually clear picture of geological history. Two geological layers meet here. Weathered Heidelberg granite from the Paleozoic period can be seen at the base. It is 340 million years old. On top of it rests a debris flow of sand, gravel and ejected volcanic mass from the Permian period, 290 million years ago. This transition between the two rock layers, now especially visible due to weathering processes, was once the surface of the earth during the Permian period.

Exploring the geotope

The steep face of the Maltese pit is a popular destination for many geologists and geology enthusiasts. Visitors can learn more about how this feature came to be and the importance of this site, as well as its role as part of the Heidelberg Castle grounds, by reading the interpretive sign on-site or in a provided brochure. The steep face offers a glimpse of the surface of the earth 290 million years ago (the Permian period), but is also a specially protected habitat for rare animals, for example, fire salamanders.

Maltese pit

An interpretive sign explains geological context.