Chiemgau Crater Strewn Field

The Chiemgau Crater Strewn Field: Evidence of a Holocene Large Impact Event in Southeast Bavaria, Germany
Kord Ernstson, Werner Mayer, Andreas Neumair, Barbara Rappenglück, Michael A. Rappenglück, Dirk Sudhaus and Kurt W. Zeller

Kord Ernstson*a, Werner Mayerb, Andreas Neumairb, Barbara Rappenglückb, Michael A. Rappenglückb, Dirk Sudhausc and Kurt W. Zeller✝d

a University of Würzburg, Am Judengarten 23, 97204 Höchberg, Germany
b Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, Bahnhofstraße 1, 82205 Gilching, Germany
c Institute of Geography, University of Augsburg, Universitätsstraße 10, 86135 Augsburg, Germany
d Österreichisches Forschungszentrum Dürrnberg, Pflegerplatz 5, 5400 Hallein, Austria

Received 30.01.2009, received in revised form 27.02.2010, accepted 9.03.2010

Abstract. – The Chiemgau strewn field in the Alpine Foreland discovered in the early new millennium comprises more than 80 mostly rimmed craters in a roughly elliptically shaped area with axes of about 60 km and 30 km. The crater diameters range between a few meters and a few hundred meters. Geologically, the craters occur in Pleistocene moraine and fluvio-glacial sediments. The craters and surrounding areas so far investigated in more detail are featuring heavy deformations of the Quaternary cobbles and boulders, abundant fused rock material (impact melt rocks and various glasses), shock-metamorphic effects, and geophysical anomalies. The impact is substantiated by the abundant occurrence of metallic, glass and carbon spherules, accretionary lapilli, and of strange matter in the form of iron silicides like gupeiite and xifengite, and various carbides like, e.g., moissanite SiC. The hitherto established largest crater of the strewn field is Lake Tüttensee exhibiting an 8 m-height rim wall, a rim-to-rim diameter of about 600 m, a depth of roughly 30 m and an extensive ejecta blanket. Physical and archeological dating confine the impact event to have happened most probably between 1300 and 300 B.C. The impactor is suggested to have been a low-density disintegrated, loosely bound asteroid or adisintegrated comet in order to account for the extensive strewn field.

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Comment on the mantra-like arguments of critics

With regard to the mantra-like arguments of critics

— that according to computer simulations the Chiemgau impact crater strewn field is far too extensive (Reimold et. al. 2006, Wünnemann et al. 2007),

— that it is impossible that meteorites other than iron meteorites can produce small craters on the ground (Reimold et. al. 2006),

— that it is utterly out of the question that comet fragments are able to produce a crater strewn field at the Earth’s surface,

— that we are anyhow knowing all about comets [“Cometary matter is unchanged since the formation of our solar system 4,500 Ma” (Jessberger 2005), and “Comets don’t carry >> unknown matter<<” (Jessberger 2006)]

we in the following present some new results (Main Belt Comets, MBC; large impact crater strewn field in Argentina; Carancas, Peru, stony meteorite impact crater) referring to this group of themes.

Exotic objects in the solar system: Comet-like asteroids (main belt comets – MBC)

Between 1979 and 2010 five objects having diameters from 150 m to 5 km have been discovered in the asteroid main belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter that show comet-like properties. Without significant deviations their orbit corresponds to the asteroid belt. Different from the rest of the asteroids they exhibit the following peculiarities:

Loss of mass indicated by a tail (dust, gas, debris) and, like with comets, depending on the exposition to the sun.

This points to a distinct content of volatiles in the form of ice under diverse cover. A time span of thousands of years for the comet-like behavior is assumed. Since the hydrogen isotopic ration of the terrestrial water is not compatible with the ratio so far measured for comets, it is internationally discussed whether the MBCs may have contributed to the delivery of water to Earth. A formation of the MBCs by collisions in the asteroid belt resulting in a release of ice to the surface is also being discussed.

The most recently discovered object (in January 2010) has a diameter of c. 150 m (light spot at lower left), and a photo was taken by the Hubble telescope:

Ch Neu


Additional links:

Bajada del Diablo, Argentina: a newly discovered large meteorite crater strewn field.

Critics from Berlin (Museum of Natural History, Reimold et al. 2006) claim that according to computer simulations the strewn field of a fragmented meteorite can be very small only, not much more than 1 km wide. Indeed, the crater strewn fields of Kaalijarvi (Estonia), Ilumetsa (Estonia), Morasko (Poland), Sikhote-Alin (Russia), Henbury (Australia), Wabar (Saudi Arabia) are small the half axes being 0,5 – 2 km and up to 1 km, respectively.

Perhaps the computer has not heard of this, but the strewn field of Campo del Cielo (Gran Chaco Gualamba, Chaco, Argentina) comprises 22 small craters at least (diameters from 5 to 103 m, up to 5 m deep) which are distributed over an area of minimum 19 km x 3 km. The recently discovered crater strewn field of Bajada del Diablo (Provincia de Chubut, Patagonia, Argentina) is even larger and measures 27 km x 15 km at least. The c. 100 craters have diameters between 60 m and 500 m and are up to 50 m deep.

These data strongly remind of the Chiemgau meteorite crater strewn field, and the Argentine researchers explicitly refer to the Chiemgau impact and suggest – as does the CIRT – the projectile to have been a loosely bound asteroid (like the 253 Mathilde “rubble pile”) or a fragmented comet nucleus.

The link to the article (abstract) in Geomorphology, 110, 58-67, 2009:…

Produced by the impact of a stony meteorite: the 13.5 m-diameter Carancas, Peru, impact crater:

Referring to the Chiemgau impact Reimold et al. (2006) declare the impossibility that small craters on the Earth’s surface can be produced by meteorites other than iron meteorites. Only one year later, object lesson was given when in Peru a stony meteorite produced a 13 m-diameter impact crater.

Correspondingly, we read in a first publication of scientists (2008):

“Unlike what it is generally expected, a few tons stony meteorite did not disintegrate in its passage through the atmosphere, but rather it reached the ground with a velocity high enough to produce an impact crater. This event challenges our present view of the fate of meteoroids striking the Earth. The presence of small craters on Earth as well as Mars has to be re-analyzed on the basis of the Carancas event.” []

A comprehensive article on the Carancas impact has been printed in Meteoritics and Planetary Science (MAPS):

G. Tancredi, J. Ishitsuka, P. H. Schultz, R. S. Harris, P. Brown, D. O. Revelle, K. Antier, A. Le Pichon, D. Rosales, E. Vidal, M. E. Varela, L. Sánchez, S. Benavente, J. Bojorquez, D. Cabezas and A. Dalmau (2009):

A meteorite crater on Earth formed on September 15, 2007: The Carancas hypervelocity impact

The link to the abstract:

IMPACT CRITERIA for the Chiemgau impact event and meteorite crater strewn field

When is a meteorite crater a meteorite crater?

Image courtesy Google Earth

There are people believing this to be the case when a crater under discussion is accepted by a committee to be included in an official database like the Earth impact database of the New Brunswick university in Canada. There are other people being convinced a meteorite crater is a meteorite crater when there is clear scientific evidence for such an origin and who doubt that acommittee is qualified to decide on results of scientific research. This is the reason why different impact databases are revealing quite different numbers of established terrestrial meteorite craters (impact structures). Disregarding this fine distinction, there are quite a few criteria (e.g., morphological, geological, geophysical, mineralogic-petrographical, geochemical) as a base for the evaluation of a meteorite crater, and some of them are regarded as in proof of impact. In other words and to say it simpler: Having mapped basaltic rocks in the field, one will be convinced there is volcanism, and having mapped rocks displaying shock-metamorphic effects, one will be convinced there is a nearby impact site.


Impact criteria – compelling and less compelling – as compiled by Norton, O.R. (2002): The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Meteorites. – Cambridge University Press, pp. 291-299, and French, B.M. (1998): Traces of Catastrophe. A Handbook of Shock-Metamorphic Effects in Terrestrial Meteorite Impact Structures. Lunar and Planetary Institute, pp. 97-99 (download as a pdf file here), and others, are:

1. Morphology

Circular structures in general; depressions with raised rims or/and central uplifts; multi-ring structures: less meaningful because many other geological structures may show circular symmetries, and true impact structures may strongly deviate from such a shape.

2. Geophysical anomalies

Many impact structures  are closely related with characteristic gravity and magnetic anomalies, but reversely, measured anomalies in general don’t allow to deduce an impact event. Seismic reflection surveys may reveal the characteristic layering of buried impact structures.

3. Geologic evidence

Regularly found in and around impact structures: strong deformations, folding, faulting, fracturing; polymictic and monomictic breccias and dike breccias, megabreccias; high-pressure/short-term deformations of clasts in a soft matrix; rocks looking like volcanic or magmatic rocks; layers of exotic material.

4. High-temperature evidence

Melt rocks, natural glasses, breccias with melt rock fragments and glasses

5. High-pressure evidence – shock metamorphism

Planar deformation features (PDFs) in quartz, feldspar and other minerals, planar fractures (PFs) in quartz, diaplectic quartz and feldspar crystals, diaplectic glass; multiple sets of intense kink banding in mica, multiple sets of microtwinning in calcite. Kink banding in mica and PFs in quartz are also known from very strong tectonic deformation.

6. Shatter cones


Steinheim shatter cone Sudbury shatter cone

Shatter cones, here in limestone from the Steinheim Basin impact structure and in an quartz-arenite from the Sudbury impact structure, are characteristic shock-induced conical fracture planes in all types of hard rocks. Shatter-cone fracture planes show typical “horse-tail” fracture markings.

7. Special evidence

Occurrence of micro and/or nano-diamonds; accretionary lapilli, various kinds of spherules. – Spherules may be anthropogenic.

8. Meteorite fragments

In larger meteorite craters in most cases completely absent because of vaporization of the projectile upon impact. Microscopic geochemical signature of the impactor is possible. Meteorite fragments are in general found in and around young small craters. In the Macha crater strewn field (Yacutia), however, the largest particles assumed to be meteoritic are 1.2 mm-sized only.

9. Direct observation (historical record)

Apart from the observation of meteorite showers (e.g., Sikhote Alin) impacts to have formed a meteorite crater have not been passed on. Geomyths may be interpreted as document of observed impacts.


According to current understanding, points 5. shock metamorphism, 6. shatter cones, 8. meteorite fragments, and 9. direct observation are each one by itself accepted as a confirmation of an impact event.

The criteria 1. – 9. applied to
the Chiemgau crater strewn field

1. Morphology – yes

Numerous circularly shaped craters with raised rims

rimmed crater no. 004

The 11 m-diameter crater no. 004 in the Chiemgau impact strewn field. Note the distinct raised rim.

2. Geophysical anomalies – yes

– Gravity negative anomaly of the Lake Tüttensee crater surrounded by a conspicuous zone of relatively positive anomalies

– A distinct horizon of strongly enhanced soil magnetic susceptibility in the strewn field.

Tüttensee gravity anomaly

Gravity survey (Bouguer residual anomaly) of the Lake Tüttensee cratersoil magnetic susceptibility

Anomalous soil magnetic susceptibility profile near the Lake Tüttensee crater

3. Geologic evidence – yes, multiple

Tüttensee breccia

Multicolored polymictic impact breccia from the Lake Tüttensee crater ejecta layer.coherent clasts

Highly fractured however coherent carbonate and silicate clasts from the Lake Tüttensee crater ejecta layer: evidence of high-pressure/short-term deformation.squeezed cobble

Highly fractured and squeezed however coherent quartzite cobble from the Lake Tüttensee crater rim wall: evidence of high-pressure/short-term deformationStöttham exotic layer

The Stöttham exotic impact layer (arrow)

4. High-temperature evidence – yes

Tüttensee impact melt rock

Pumice-like impact melt rock from the Lake Tüttensee crater.welded cobbles

Two glass-coated cobbles welded by cindery glass from crater no. 004melt rock

Sawed surface of a silicate cobble from crater no. 004. Extremely vesicular and fissured rock where, except for quartz, all minerals are more or less transformed to glass giving the dark color to the rock. The widely open fissures may result from shock spallation.

5. Shock metamorphism – yes

PDFs, Tüttensee PDFs, Popigai

“Toasted” quartz with multiple sets of PDFs in quartz; photomicrograph, crossed polarizers, quartzite clast from the Lake Tüttensee crater rim wall. “Toasted” quartz is a common feature in shocked grains and is explained by tiny fluid inclusions. – For comparison to the right: toasted quartz with PDFs from the Popigai impact structure, Russia

.PDFs, crater 004

Two sets of planar deformation features (PDFs) in quartz; photomicrograph, crossed polarizers, 1.5 mm field width; quartzite clast from the Chiemgau impact 004 crater. The slightly curved PDFs must not irritate: Although there are authors, e.g. Reimold & Koeberl (2000), who claim bent PDFs are of non-impact origin, the example of the Popigai bent PDFs in the above image and many other examples from various impact structures show the verdict of Reimold & Koeberl is not tenable

.shocked plagioclase

Twin lamellae and multiple sets of PDFs in feldspar. Photomicrograph, crossed polarizers; impact melt rock from the Lake Tüttensee crater.

6. Shatter cones – yes

shatter cone Tüttensee

Two shatter cones in counter position in a fine-grained sandstone from the Lake Tüttensee crater.

7. Special evidence  – yes

Nanodiamonds – yes  


Rösler W., Hoffmann V., Raeymaekers, B., Schryvers, D. and Popp, J. (2005) Diamonds in carbon spherules –evidence for a cosmic impact? (; 7.5.2006).

Accretionary lapilli – yes

Lapillo Chiemgau Lapillo Chiemgau2

Accretionary lapilli (to the right with a fragmental metallic core) from the Chiemgau impact strewn field. Lapilli diameters about 4 – 5 mm. Accretionary lapilli are normally known from volcanism but have been shown to occur also in impact structures where they have been formed in the impact explosion cloud.

Spherules – yes

glass spherule

2 mm-diameter broken vesicular glass spherule; Stöttham impact layer.carbon spherules

Carbon spherules from various sites in the Chiemgau impact strewn field. Also see Yang, Z.Q. et al., 2008: TEM and Raman characterization of diamond micro- and nanostructures in carbon spherules from upper soils. – Diamond and Related Materials 17/6: 937-943.

8. Meteorite fragments – probably yes

Exotic material like iron silicides gupeiite and xifengite, carbides like titanium carbide and silicon carbide moissanite strongly point to extraterrestrial origin.

SEM image of moissanite crystals in iron silicide matrix. Sample from the Chiemgau meteorite crater strewn field.

gupeiite suessite

Comparison of analyses of Chiemgau gupeiite and meteoritic suessite

9. Direct observation (historical record) – possibly yes


Peter Paul Rubens: The fall of Phaeton, National Gallery of Art, Washington.



Rappenglück, B. and Rappenglück, M., 2006: Does the myth of Phaethon reflect an impact? – Revising the fall of Phaethon and considering a possible relation to the Chiemgau Impact. – Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 6/3 (2006), 101-109.

The following contributions (oral, poster) of the Chiemgau Impact Research Team (CIRT) were presented:


Michael A. Rappenglück & Kord Ernstson: The Chiemgau crater strewn field (Southeast Bavaria, Germany): Evidence of a Holocene large impact event

International Conference “100 years since Tunguska phenomenon: Past, present and future”. – June 26 – 28, 2008, Moscow (Russia)

Kord Ernstson & Michael A. Rappenglück: The Chiemgau crater strewn field: Evidence of a Holocene large impact event in Southeast Bavaria, Germany

International Scientific Conference “100 years of the Tunguska event”. – June 30 – July 6, 2008, Krasnoyarsk (Russia)

Barbara Rappenglück & Michael A. Rappenglück (for the Chiemgau Impact Research Team): The fall of Phaethon:  Is this a geomyth reflecting an impact in Bavaria during the Celtic period?

33rd International Geological Congress. Session: Myth and Geology. – August 5 – 14, 2008, Oslo (Norway)


The following contributions (oral, poster) of the Chiemgau Impact Research Team (CIRT) submitted and has been accepted for presentation:

Chiemgau Impact Research Team (CIRT): The Chiemgau Impact: An extraordinary case-study for the question of Holocene impacts and their cultural implications

SEAC (Société Européenne pour l’astronomie dans la culture) meeting (XVIth). – September 8-12, 2008, Granada (Spain)

Article: Myth of Phaethon

Barbara and Michael Rappenglück (2006): Does the myth of Phaethon reflect an impact? – Revising the fall of Phaethon and considering a possible relation to the Chiemgau Impact. – Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Proceedings of the International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, SEAC 14th 2006, “Ancient watching of cosmic space and observation of astronomical phenomena”, Vol. 6, No. 3 (2006), 101-109.

Abstract. – In Greek mythology there exists one story that has repeatedly been interpreted to describe the fall of a celestial body: the story of Phaethon, who undertakes a disastrous drive with the sun-chariot of his father Helios. First, the article presents the arguments given by ancient authors for interpreting this story as the reflection of a natural phenomenon. Then details given in the old descriptions of Phaethon’s fall are compared with nowadays knowledge of impact phenomena. Furthermore the texts are examined for clues to the time and the location of the hypothesised impact. These considerations substantiate the suggestion that the myth of Phaethon reflects a concrete strike of a meteorite, the so-called Chiemgau Impact. That impact struck the south-east of Bavaria/Germany at some time during the Celtic period and left an extended crater-strewnfield of about 100 craters. A conspicuous intersection between the tradition of the Phaethon-story and the up to now known time-frame for the Chiemgau Impact gives new clues for dating the Chiemgau Impact to the time between 600 and 428 BC.

Articles on Lake Tüttensee proposed meteorite impact crater on

The Holocene Tüttensee meteorite impact crater in southeast Germany

Abstract | Article

Shock effects (shock metamorphism) in rocks from the impact layer at Lake Tüttensee (ejecta, Bunte breccia). In German with English abstract and Figure captions.   pdf

The Tüttensee Bunte breccia. In German with English abstract and Figure captions.   pdf

New evidence of an impact origin for Lake Tüttensee (Chiemgau impact event): An impact layer in near Lake test pits. In German with English abstract and Figure captions.  pdf Part 1      pdf  Part 2

A gravity survey near Grabenstätt: Impact hypothesis for the Tüttensee crater (Chiemgau impact event) strengthened. In German with English abstract and Figure captions.  article

Regmaglyptic cobbles from Lake Chiemsee: Evidence of meteorite impact-induced ablation features

Well known among people around Lake Chiemsee, peculiarly sculptured limestone cobbles (Figs. 1 – 4) found at the shore and offshore at the lake bottom attracted special attention when Lake Chiemsee got into the focus of the meteorite strewn field impact research. Although most people are considering the groove cobbles no more than a freak of nature, the work of organisms, especially of mussels has always been suggested.

Fig. 1. Typical conically shaped groove stone from the Lake Chiemsee shore – originally a Quaternary fluvio-glacial limestone cobble. Photo courtesy of H. Eberle.

Fig. 2. Various aspects of groove cobbles from Lake Chiemsee. Photos courtesy of H. Eberle and T. Schwaier.

Fig. 3. Big grooved limestone block from the Lake Chiemsee shore. Note the distinctly parallel, knife-edge ridges between the grooves (in the same orientation found all around the block) hardly compatible with the work of organisms.

Fig. 4. Pyramidally shaped groove stone. Note the geometrically orientated groves. Photo courtesy of H. Eberle.An impact-related formation came to the fore comparing the typical groove features with ablation features (regmaglypts) that meteorites may acquire when exposed to frictional heat on their passage through the Earth’s atmosphere. Moreover, an amazing similarity between the groove cobbles and regmaglyptic boulders from the Puerto Mínguez impact ejecta of the Spanish large Rubielos de la Cérida impact structure (Figs. 5, 6; also see the respective article: exists. When we suggested that the cobble grooves were formed in the Chiemgau impact event as ablation features having developed by decarbonization and carbonate melting upon ejection and heating in a jet of super-heated volatiles, immediate reactions of local geologists ensued.

As later adopted by the local geologist Dr. Robert Darga, Dr. Robert Huber from the university of Bremen rejected the impact model of groove formation and instead seized again on the old explanation of the work of organisms, especially of bacteria and algae. He underlined his belief claiming that the same groove cobbles are a common feature in many lakes in the Alpine Forelands, Lake Constance included – see his blog contribution We encourage you to read his remarks and to especially enlarge the photos in Dr. Huber’s blog comparing them with our photos from Figs. 1-4. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. And until today, Dr. Robert Huber fails to present groove cobbles like those shown in our figures from lakes other than Lake Chiemsee.

Of course, biogenic rock sculpture produced by organisms like, e.g., endolithic bacteria or piddocks is a well-known process, but once more, we must not compare apples to oranges, and obviously Dr. Huber has come to a deadlock.

There are very simple macroscopic observations proving the inorganic formation of the grooves. As shown in many of our photos, the grooved cobbles frequently exhibit distinct conical and pyramidal shape while the grooves, in most cases showing extremely sharp, knife-like edges, are geometrically related with the cones and pyramids. It’s exactly the same observation we are making with the regmaglyptic stones from the Rubielos de la Cérida impact ejecta (Figs. 5, 6). If the grooves were produced by organisms, these bacteria, algae and mussels must have had extraordinary intelligence, organization and communication capabilities to geometrically sculpture a large block as seen, e.g., in Fig. 3. Moreover, the identically grooved stones from the Spanish impact ejecta have never seen a lake, as can be read in more detail in the article referred to above.

In summary, a biogenic origin of the unmistakable, distinctly grooved cobbles from Lake Chiemsee has not any reasonable base. Instead, all features, the frequently conical and pyramidal orientations included, point to an erosion process initiating ablation due to decarbonization and melting.

Meanwhile, new finds of quite a few grooved cobbles (among them also grooved sandstones) substantiate the impact-related formation and, moreover, give highlighting insight into the unique process of deposition of the cobbles after having acquired their sculpture. We will report soon.

Fig. 5. Big grooved limestone clast embedded in the diamictic impact ejecta of the Rubielos de la Cérida impact structure in Spain. Note the pyramidal shape and the grooves diverging from the top of the pyramid.

Fig. 6. Regmaglyptic conically shaped limestone clast from the Puerto Mínguez ejecta of the Spanish large Rubielos de la Cérida impact structure. The clast that never saw any biogenic activities in a lake has remarkable similarity with the Lake Chiemsee groove stones.

An impact layer at Chieming-Stöttham

More than 30 excavation pits in the environs of Lake Tüttensee have encountered an impact layer that is suggested to be ejecta from the formation of Lake Tüttensee as a meteorite crater in the Chiemgau impact event [http://www.chiemgauimpact. com/artikel2.pdf]. Now, a very similar situation has been found with archeological excavations in the border area of Lake Chiemsee near Chieming-Stöttham. Undisturbed glacial drift with a fossil soil is overlain by a layer that must be interpreted as the result of a catastrophic event in the recent geological time. Like at Lake Tüttensee, the layer is composed of a multicolored mixture of deeply corroded rock fragments in a clayey matrix. Organic material like charcoal, teeth and bones as well as archeological objects are intermixed. This “catastrophe” horizon is overlain by a younger undisturbed occupation layer (Roman) and recent soil formation. Similar to Lake Tüttensee, the archeological finds and the geologic-archeological stratigraphy date the catastrophic event to have happened many thousand years after the end of the glacial period.

Fig. 1. The excavation pit and layering at Chieming-Stöttham exposing the “catastrophe”horizon (light, roughly in the middle of the image)

Fig. 2. Close-up of the impact catastrophe layer.

Because of the great distance to Lake Tüttensee, a formation of the Stöttham “catastrophe” horizon as ejecta from that crater can be excluded. Instead we propose another nearby impact, and there is some evidence that an impact into Lake Chiemsee was involved at least

Fig. 3. Another exposure in the area of the archeological excavation. Here, the roughly 2 m deep pit cutting through the “catastrophe” layer has not encountered the autochthonous ground moraine. In comparison with Fig. 1 the exposure shows the fluctuation of thickness and composition of the layer. Many of the dark components are intermixed charcoal.