An Oceans Abcdarium created by the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany

Sands of Time

Lucia Langston

Many of us associate sand primarily with the perfect beach vacation. But the Mainz Basin provides us with a fascinating example of sand’s many different possible origins and changes over time. Over the course of millions of years, this sedimentary basin in Rhenish Hesse repeatedly accommodated various bodies of water, with intermittent dry periods. The ground rose and sank, the climate changed, temperatures increased or cooled down. The landscape was flooded and fell dry again, it was traversed by rivers and covered by glaciers—seas, rivers, volcanoes, glaciers, and winds deposited layer upon layer of clay, rock, lime and, again and again, sand. Layers were compacted and eroded again. Embedded in the sand layers washed up by the primeval Rhine, impressive fossils of an elephant-like animal were found. The sands were named after this fossil: the ‘Dinotheria sands’. The Würm Ice Age 18000-10000 years ago finally formed the dunes that remain visible today, deposited as wind-borne sand.The autobiographical comic titled “Through the Dunes” deals with anxiety, depression, and the slow passing of time during the coronavirus pandemic. The graphic journey to the self was inspired by walks in the Mainzer Sand (Mainz Sand Dunes) nature preserve.

Sources: Sonne, Volker, “Die erdgeschichtliche Entwicklung der Landschaft um Nieder-Olm”, Nieder-Olm. Der Raum der Verbandsgemeinde in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Karl-Heinz Spiess, Alzey 1983): 2-15.