Amber: A Perfect Fossil Trap

by Volker Arnold (Text also in German)

  Pollen Grains Extracted from Early Eocene Oise Amber
Which tree produced the Baltic amber resin?

Discovering journey through a piece of Baltic amber - Find inclusions yourself!
Animations of amber inclusions from a Laser Scanning Microscope
Series: The actual inclusion photograph

Amber is fossil resin. Animals, parts of plants, and other debris, which became entombed in the resin, are more or less perfectly coated and preserved by the amber from which the resin developed. There are many types of amber of different ages, but most are from the Mesozoic or Cenozoic Eras. Known of for centuries, Baltic amber is found along the coast in the vicinity of East Prussia, dating from the Eocene Epoch, Tertiary Period (40-50 million years old). One can find Baltic amber drifting at other places along the Baltic Sea coast, particularly in Lithuania, Poland, at the Isle of Usedom and along the "Darß." Amber is also found along the German North Sea coast, and along the coasts of Denmark, Sweden, northern Netherlands, and eastern England. Ice age deposits concentrated amber in places such as the lowlands of northern Germany. The Bitterfeld or Saxonian amber is a special quality of Baltic amber, which is found in the abandoned brown coal pit, Goitzsche, near Bitterfeld in Saxonia-Anhalt, Germany.

amber piece of thumbnail size from Westerheversand, German North Sea coast An amber piece of thumbnail size in situ. The specimen washed ashore between shells and floating wood at Westerheversand, Eiderstedt (Schleswig-Holstein region, Germany, North Sea coast).

By the way, an amber collection does not have to be expensive. You can purchase amber with inclusions for prices as low as a few dollars to thousands of dollars, depending upon size, preservation and rarity of the piece. Although you can view amber and inclusions with an inexpensive magnifier, such as a 10X loupe, fine details must be discerned with more sophisticated equipment. A high-powered stereomicroscope, the proper cold-light lamp, and a camera attachment, although rather expensive, are necessary if you want to observe and archive your collection.

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copyright 1998, 1999 © Volker Arnold. All rights reserved. Author thanks Susie W. Aber for translation help.