Eem Formation

Formal (Zagwijn 1961). Amended (Doppert et al. 1975; Bosch et al. 2003).
Lithological description

Grey fine to medium sand, mostly calcareous with marine shells that may be concentrated in layers (dominant outside of basins). Dark grey to greenish grey clay, silty, mostly calcareous with shells or shell layers, locally organic (dominant in basins). Subordinate shell crags, diatomite.

Depositional setting

In former glacial basins, succession of shallow freshwater (locally diatomite) to brackish coastal (silty organic clay) to fully marine (shelly clay and sand), driven by sea-level rise, followed by renewed brackish coastal, governed by sea-level fall and basin fill (shallowing) (Cleveringa et al. 2000; Van Leeuwen et al. 2000; De Gans et al. 2000). Elsewhere, especially offshore, primarily fully (shallow) marine.

Definition of lower boundary

Locally, diatomite or gyttja at base. Gradual transition into glaciolacustrine clay (Uitdam Member, Drente Formation). Sharp contact with till (Gieten Member, Drente Formation), less shelly fluvial siliciclastics (Kreftenheye (Twello Member), Urk and Sterksel Formations), or Neogene sediments (marine Oosterhout, Rupel and Dongen Formations, fluvial Waalre Formation).

Definition of upper boundary

Highly variable. Generally, sharp and unconformable contact with usually non-calcareous periglacial aeolian and local river sand (Boxtel Formation), coarse fluvial channel lags (Kreftenheye Formation), or tidal-channel siliciclastics (Naaldwijk Formation). Gradual to diffuse transition into fluvially reworked marine sand from the Eem Formation (Ockenburg Member, Kreftenheye Formation) or tidal sand and clay (Naaldwijk Formation). Locally, gradual to sharp boundary with Eemian to early Weichselian peat (Woudenberg Formation) or sharp boundary with Holocene peat (Basisveen Bed, Nieuwkoop Formation).

Thickness indication
Up to 70 m in glacial basins. Elsewhere, up to 15 m thick.
Geographical distribution
Continuous in glacial basins, discontinuous elsewhere.
Regional correlation
North Sea: Eem Formation (mapped in conjunction with the British Geological Survey; Cameron et al. 1989); UK: ?; GER: not differentiated; BEL: Oostende Formation (Dolffus 1884; Paepe 1965).
Late Pleistocene (Eemian).
In the original typelocation (B32B0119 (Amersfoort-1), Zagwijn 1961), the sequence of the Eem Formation is incomplete. Therefore, a new lectostratotype is assigned. The original borehole is now added as a parastratotype to describe the lithofacies of the unit at the margin of the glacial basins.
Depth (thickness) AH:
32.64 - 63.57 m (30.93 m) below land surface
Depth (thickness) AH:
13.21-27.71 m (14.50 m) below land surface
Origin of name
Named after the river Eem in the central Netherlands, which has given its name to the Eemian Stage of the Pleistocene (Harting 1874; 1875).
Previous name(s)
None. Peat layers originally included in the Eem Formation are now included in the Woudenberg Formation. Shell-bearing fluvial and estuarine sands in the southwest and offshore, reworked from the Eem Formation, are now assigned to the Ockenburg Member, Kreftenheye Formation.
Reviewed by (date)
Wim Dubelaar (2018), Sytze van Heteren (2019).
Bosch, J.H.A., Busschers, F.S., Weerts, H.J.T. 2003. Beschrijving lithostratigrafische eenheid. Nederlands Instituut voor Toegepaste Geowetenschappen TNO. Utrecht.
Cameron, T.D.J., Schüttenhelm, R.T.E., Laban, C. 1989. Middle and Upper Pleistocene and Holocene stratigraphy in the southern North Sea between 52° and 54° N, 2° to 4° E. In: Henriet, J.P. De Moor, G. (eds.): The Quaternary and Tertiary geology of the Southern Bight, North Sea. Brussels, Belgian Geological Survey, 119-135.
Cleveringa, P., Meijer, T., Van Leeuwen, R.J.W., De Wolf, H., Power, R., Lissenberg, T., Burger, A.W. 2000. The Eemian stratotype locality at Amersfoort in the central Netherlands: a re-evaluation of old and new data. In: Van Kolfschoten, Th., Gibbard, P.L. (eds.): The Eemian - local sequences, global perspectives. Geologie en Mijnbouw / Netherlands Journal of Geosciences 79, 197-216.
De Gans, W., Beets, D.J., Centineo, M.C. 2000. Late Saalian and Eemian deposits in the Amsterdam glacial basin. In: Van Kolfschoten, Th., Gibbard, P.L. (eds.): The Eemian - local sequences, global perspectives. Geologie en Mijnbouw / Netherlands Journal of Geosciences, 79, 147-160.
Dollfus, G. 1884. Le terrain quaternaire d’Ostende et le Corbicula fluminalis. Annales de la Societé royale malacologique de Belgique, 19, M28-54.
Doppert, J.W.Chr., Ruegg, G.H.J., Van Staalduinen, C.J., Zagwijn, W.H., Zandstra, J.G. 1975. Formaties van het Kwartair en Boven-Tertiair in Nederland. In: Zagwijn, W.H., Van Staalduinen, C.J. (eds.): Toelichting bij geologische overzichtskaarten van Nederland. Rijks Geologische Dienst, Haarlem, 11-56.
Harting, P. 1874. De bodem van het Eemdal. Verslag Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afdeling N, II, deel VIII: 282-290.
Harting, P. 1875. Le système éemien. Archives Néerlandaises Sciences Exactes et Naturelles de la Societé Hollandaise des Sciences (Harlem), 10, 443-454.
Paepe, R. 1965. On the presence of Tapes senescens in some borings of the coastal plain and the Flemish Valley. Bulletin de la Societé belge de Géologie, 74, 249-254.
Van Leeuwen, R.J.W., Beets, D.J., Bosch, J.H.A., Burger, A.W., Cleveringa, P., Van Harten, D., Herngreen, G.F.W., Kruk, R.W., Langereis, C.G., Meijer, T., Pouwer, R., De Wolf, H. 2000. Stratigraphy and integrated facies analysis of the Eemian in Amsterdam-Terminal. In: Van Kolfschoten, Th., Gibbard, P.L. (eds.): The Eemian – local sequences, global perspectives. Geologie en Mijnbouw / Netherlands Journal of Geosciences 79 (2-3), 161-196.
Zagwijn, W.H. 1961. Vegetation, climate and radiocarbon datings in the Late Pleistocene of the Netherlands. Part I: Eemian and Early Weichselian. Mededelingen van de Geologische Stichting, Nieuwe Serie 14, 15-45.
Cite as
TNO-GDN ([YEAR]). Eem Formation. In: Stratigraphic Nomenclature of the Netherlands, TNO – Geological Survey of the Netherlands. Accessed on [DATE] from