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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010
  • First published in: 1863



Nature and Origin of the Loess.

INTIMATELY connected with the subjects treated of in the last chapter, is the nature, origin, and age of certain loamy deposits, commonly called loess, which form a marked feature in the superficial deposits of the basins of the Rhine, Danube, and some other large rivers draining the Alps, and which extend down the Rhine into the Low Countries, and were once perhaps continuous with others of like composition in the north of France.

It has been reported of late years that human remains have been detected at several points in the loess of the Meuse around and below Maestricht. I have visited the localities referred to; but, before giving an account of them, it will be desirable to explain what is meant by the loess, a step the more necessary, as a French geologist, for whose knowledge and judgment I have great respect, tells me he has come to the conclusion that ‘the loess’ is ‘a myth,’ having no real existence in a geological sense, or as holding a definite place in the chronological series.

No doubt it is true that in every country, and at all geological periods, rivers have been depositing fine loam on their inundated plains in the manner explained above at p. 34, where the Nile mud was spoken of. This mud of the plains of Egypt, according to Professor Bischoff's chemical analysis, agrees closely in composition with the loess of the Rhine.