The legend of the Steinhardt’s peas
by courtesy of Mr. Ingolf Garske, of Steinhardt, Sobernheim
A local legend of the village of Steinhardt – now part of the city of Sobernheim – explains the reason for the toponym Steinhardt , meaning “hard as a stone”.
A long long time ago, a rich but hardhearted farmer lived in Steinhardt. In the spring, he went out to his field to sow peas. When the work was almost done, an old and poor man came to the field and greeting him friendly, asked politely if he would give him some peas, just enough to cook a soup for him and his family. The rich farmer rejected the beggar disdainfully. Sooner his peas should become stones, than he would give away even a handful. Sadly the old man turned away and went home empty-handed. Still cursing the beggar the farmer went on with the sowing. However the sack on his shoulder became heavier and heavier. There he noted with horror that the peas had changed themselves into round stones. Not only those that he had on his back, but also the peas that he had already sown had become already stones.
(See why they call us Steinhardt? –I.S.)
The geologists see the Steinhardt’s peas more seriously and more objectively. Incidentally they are substantially heavier than other stones of comparable size. Their forms are round or cylindrical, measuring between 1 cm and 20 cm. Sometimes they “grew” together in bunches like potatoes. From their round form, one could consider that they are pebbles brought by the current of the river. Yet this doesn’t seem to be the case. The sand on which they lay is the same fine, yellow sand that we find in the fields and the vineyards around Steinhardt. The “Steinhardt’s peas” are formations common in the area. When the stones are broken we find always the same pattern: right in the middle they have a fossil – a thin splinter of a branch, a piece of the needle of a needle-flower or a shell.
A closer look at the stone of which the “peas” are made shows that the substance that the sand covers and forms the “peas” is barite (barium sulfate). Barium sulfate has a high specific weight (4.5 – granite, for example, has 2.7) and it is easy to split. Barite occurs frequently in nature in many different colors. The mines of Bad Kreuznach and Bad Münster am Stein/Ebernburg give us a hint for the possible origin of the barium in Steinhardt. We see the barium chloride containing mines as the conveyers of Steinhardt’s barium. Probably barium containing mineral waters must have sprung here at the time of the formation of “Steinhardt’s peas”. We should see in the decomposed remnants of animals and vegetables the suppliers of sulfur because albumin’s substances usually contain some sulfur. Even if the chemical processes in the development of the “Steinhardt’s peas” is not entirely clear yet, we may suppose that the decaying organic materials were its initiators. Where Barium salt comes in contact with decaying organisms a first thin stone skin of barium sulfate is formed. Additional stone skins then follow. The geologists call this chemically produced concretized conglomeration around a kernel.
Now we want to address ourselves to the fossils in the concretizations of Steinhardt. The following plant fossils are found: dowels of blackthorn and thorn-bush, needles of those trees, pecked nuts, leafs of all kinds of hard foliage plant. As animal fossils we find seashells, sea snails and shark teeth.
So remnants of country plant and sea animals lie petrified in the barium concretizations of Steinhardt. The sands of Steinhardt must have laid at the coast of a sea.
Yet which sea has washed the coast of Steinhardt and when?
Through the petrified animals we can determine the time. It was in the mid- Oligocene of the Old Tertiary period. The beginning of this age lies about 30 million years ago. The High Rhine depth plain existed already. However before the mid-oligocene the Mediterranean Sea was connected to the High Rhine canal by the Gate of Burgundy. At the time there was a water passage from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. At one of its expansions, at the edge of the basin of Mainz and the bay of Kreuznach, the sea has flown along the coast of Steinhardt.
The fossil plants and animal findings refer to a warm, sub-tropical climate. A luxurious vegetation surrounded the bay of Kreuznach, at the time of the development of the “Steinhardt’s peas”. Through the brushes of the forests, whose tree species would be strange to us, struggled primitive mammals. The numerous birds on the trees however would probably not be substantially different from the species that live here today.
(roughly translated by Inacio Steinhardt, not knowing German, this was really… steinhardt work!)
And now be proud of “our” village
This is Steinhardt
today a suburb of Sobernheim
(pictures also by courtesy of Mr. Ingolf Garske
who highly recommends the quality of Steinhardt’wines!)