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Go my Sons, buy stout shoes, climb the mountains, search the valleys, the deserts, the sea shores, and the deep recesses of the earth. Look for the various kinds of minerals, note their characters and mark their origin ... observe and experiment without ceasing, for in this way and in no other will you arrive at a knowledge of the nature and properties of things.
(Wallerius, Systema Mineralogicum, Preface, Vienna, 1778) (Adams 1954, p. 210).
Once out ofnature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
(W.B. Yeats, from Sailing to Byzantium)

Central Europe is a complex mosaic of crustal elements, including Cadomian fragments, Caledonian and Variscan microcontinents and suture zones, as well as Mesozoic and Alpine tectonostratigraphic successions (Fig. 1.1). These disparate elements were assembled during the various Precambrian and Phanerozoic (Caledonian, Variscan and Alpine) orogenies, the end result being a geological history of over 3500 million years. Over this long and complex period of crustal evolution, older consolidated crustal elements were repeatedly remobilized and overprinted by later events.

Rather than a physical entity, the term ‘Central Europe’ is more a concept of shared history, and in some ways refers to a similar area to that which is defined by the German term ‘Mitteleuropa’ (or Middle Europe), referring to territories under

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