Leaving Kielce in the direction of Radom, we pass Kajetanów and after driving for another ca. 2 km we turn west in the direction of Zagnańsk. From the point where the road crosses the railway line one can see the church in Zachełmie, built from red Triassic sandstone. Just behind it, in the western part of Góra Chełmowa, a vast dormant dolomite quarry is located. Up until now it has been visited because of its contact featuring mid-Devonian dolomite with Permian-Triassic sandstone and conglomerate (395 million and 251-255 million years of age respectively) which is exposed on the northern face. This exposure is a monument of inanimate nature. Layers of dolomites were uplifted and steeply sloped during the Variscan (Hercynian) orogeny in the late Carboniferous period (ca. 299-325 Ma). On the erosion surface of the grey dolomites, red Permian-Triassic river, lake and shallow sea sediment lies almost horizontally. Dolomites are a sediment formed in tidal plane and shallow sea areas. Vast exposures of the domed structures of cyanobacteria colonies and cracks formed during the drying of the exposed sea bottom that can be seen on the surface of layers on the southern faces of the quarry are some of the best in the world. Once this was a site where haematite – an iron oxide with a characteristic cherry-red tint – was mined.
However, what made the news in the geological milieu in recent times was the discovery of tetrapod footprints in this quarry. The discovery of the oldest footprints of the tetrapod, which was an intermediate link between fish and four-legged animals, led to the shift of the estimated date of vertebrates coming out of the sea by ca. 18 million years back. This could be determined because conodonts – jaws of primitive Chorea that are considered index fossil – were also found in the rock. Index fossils refer to short lived species, whose finding allows to determine accurately the age of the rock. The fact that the footprints of the tetrapod were found here, in Zachełmie, affirmed our region's status as a “geological paradise” of European importance. Next to the “Bartek” oak tree (the oldest tree in Poland) in nearby Bartków, the old quarry in Zachełmie has a chance of becoming another gem on the map of tourist attractions of the Świętokrzyskie region.