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Mur Nockerln – Austrian Dumplings in Nephrite Jade!

The small European Nephrite deposits have not resulted in such large quantities of rolled river pebbles that a modern rockhound would have a chance to find them in rivers around their mother lode except maybe if you are an expert Jade hunter like Russell Beck from New Zealand!

Nevertheless in the River Mur, in the Austrian Federal Province of Styria, Nephrite Pebbles in a leek green color have been found in larger numbers but alas not the corresponding mother lode.

The Mur River is, with 295Km length, the second longest river of Austria. It has its source on the southern slope of the Tauern Mountain chain in the center of the Austrian Alps. From its source, at 1898m near the village of St. Michael in Lungau, it flows slightly east-north-east through Murau, Zeltweg, Leoben to Bruck an der Mur where it is joined by the Mürz (Muorica or the small Mur River in the Slavic idiom). Here the Mur makes a right turn, cuts through the Glein Alm and Fischbacher Alpen mountains and flows southwards through Graz to Slovenia and Hungary before emptying into Drava River, the Danube and finally into the Black Sea.

Geological map of Austria with the East-North-East and the South-East trace of the Mur River through mostly Metamorphic Rocks


Satellite view of the Mur River, north of Graz, just before he cuts through the Glein Alm and Fischbacher Alpen. The area hosts numerous Amphibole/Serpentine rock formations.


Geological Map of Styria with the Mur River passing through Mica Schists, Quartz Phyllites, Amphibolites and Paleozoic Sediments and Vulcanites.

The “Mur Nockerln” or Nephrite Jade River pebbles have been collected since the late 18th century from the gravel beds of the Mur near the Capital of Styria, Graz.
Graz is the second largest city of Austria and located where 5000 years ago there was only a steep rocky hill by the river Mur. That hill is now called the Schlossberg with the famous clock tower.


The heart of Graz with the Schlossberg and the Clock tower

The year 1128 is distinctive in Graz’s history. It marks the first reference to the city in a historic document. In 2003 the Grazers celebrated the 875th anniversary of this important point in their history. Only 250 years later, in 1379, Graz was designated the capital of Inner Austria, an area comprising Styria, Carinthia, Krain, Inner Istria and Trieste. As such, Graz became residence of the Hapsburgs until 1619. In the decades to come, Italian architects and craftsmen would shape the city with their skills. Graz became a mighty stronghold of the Holy Roman Empire against the threats from the southeast.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the last walls of the castle fell without ever having been stormed. The citizens of Graz, however, had bought the Glockenturm, the distinctive clock tower that overlooks Graz’s main square as well as the Uhrturm, the bell tower that crowns the Schlossberg. This "insurance" cost them 2987 Gilders and 11 Kreutzer, which would come to about 100.000$ US today. These two buildings have become the city’s landmarks.

Since that time the city has distinguished itself primarily in the worlds of science, culture and technology.

In Graz the first public Museum of Austria, the Joanneum was opened in 1811 to house the scientific collections of the Archduke Johann of Austria. In the Mineral Collection of this Museum about 40 Nephrite Jade Pebbles, the so called “Mur Nockerln” are stored. (Contact  HYPERLINK "mailto:hans-peter.bojar@museum-joanneum.at" hans-peter.bojar@museum-joanneum.at). A “Nockerl” is the Austrian term for a small dumpling, the most famous one being the sweet “Salzburger Nockerln”.( http://www.aboutvienna.org/recipes/salzburger_nockerln.htm )

Today Landesmuseum Joanneum is the largest provincial museum of Austria, comprising 19 departments, with a main emphasis laid on Styrian wildlife, culture and arts.


Johann the Archduke of Austria, the Old Joanneum in the Raubergasse and the New Joanneum designed and built by Gunolt in 1895.

Johann, Archduke of Austria, was born in Florence (Italy) on Jan. 20, 1782, and died in Graz (Styria), May 10, 1859. He was the 13th child of Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who became Emperor Leopold II. Originally destined for a military career, Johann soon developed particular interest in nature, technology and agriculture; he collected minerals, was an alpinist and hunter. In the Napoleonic Wars he served as field marshal and general manager of military engineering and fortifications. On December 3, 1800 he lost the battle of Hohenlinden and in 1805 fought the French and the Bavarians. In 1808 he organised the Landwehr reserve army for the popular uprising against Napoleon in Tyrol and in Inner-Austria; in 1809 he supported Tyrol's fight for freedom led by the Tyrolean peasant and freedom fighter A. Hofer, and became commander in chief of the Southern Army against E. Beauharnais. Victorious at Sacile, but defeated at Raab.

Because of his participation in the  Alpenbund, a Tyrolean resistance movement, and after the suppression of the Tyrolean popular uprising, his brother, Emperor Franz I forbade him to set foot on Tyrolean soil. He therefore turned his attention to Styria. In 1811 laid the foundation for the Joanneum museum in Graz by donating his collections. The following institutions were generally encouraged by Archduke J.: Styrian Archives (1817), School for Mining and Metallurgical Practice in Vordernberg (from 1849 in Leoben, University of Mining and Metallurgy), the Styrian Agricultural Association (1819), the insurance agency for fire damage "Wechselseitige", the "Steiermarkische Sparkasse" savings bank, the "Landesoberrealschule", a secondary school emphasising studies of mathematics and science (1845), the Association for Styrian History (1850). In 1818 he acquired the Brandhof estate near Mariazell and transformed it into an alpine model farm. In 1822 he acquired two iron works in Vordernberg and became owner of an iron mine, revolutionised the extraction and production of ore at the Erzberg open-cast mine in Styria by founding the Vordernberger Radmeister-Communität in 1835, the first railway using iron rails on the European continent. He also acquired a sheet-metal factory in Krems and coal mines near Köflach. In 1841 purchased the domain of Stainz including the former monastery, where he was also the first freely elected mayor in 1851. At Pickern near Marburg (Slovenia) Johann founded a vine-growing estate and introduced vine plants from the Rhineland. One of his special achievements was the routing of the Southern railway from Vienna to Trieste, via the Semmering and the Mürz and Mur valleys and Graz. His affection for the common people was reflected in his close contact with them; he wore traditional costumes (Steireranzug), collected folk art and encouraged the material and intellectual culture of the country. In 1829 married Anna Plochl, the daughter of a postmaster from Aussee. Their descendants were given the title Grafen von Meran". His autobiographical work, "Der Brandhofer und seine Hausfrau" gives interesting insights into his life-style. Johann enjoyed the company of numerous artists ("chamber painters") and scientists. In 1848 he was nominated the Emperor’s deputy and opened the Constituent Imperial Diet in Vienna. In 1848 he was also elected Administrator of the Realm by the all-German National Assembly in Frankfurt, but resigned from this office in 1849. Johann is buried in Schenna near Meran (South Tyrol).


Mur Nockerl – Nephrite Jade River Pebble of about 12cm in width and 4cm thick in the Joanneum (Photo courtesy of Mr. Bojar of the Joanneum)

Initially the rich collection of the Archduke was intended to serve as illustrative material in an educational and research institution. Such renowned scientists as Friedrich Mohs, who was to become famous for his hardness scale of minerals, or Wilhelm Engerth, who constructed the first mountain locomotive taught at that museum/school. Also the Graz University of Technology developed from the school. A reading circle founded at the Joanneum was the nucleus of the Styrian Provincial Library and the Styrian Provincial Archive.

The “Altes Joanneum” in the Raubergasse still houses the scientific collections of the the departments of geology, mineralogy, zoology and botany. The building itself is very impressive. Domenico Sciassia erected it around 1670 as the town residence of St. Lambrecht Abbey. Numerous figures decorate the Baroque facade such as beautiful herms, ugly grotesques and interesting heads of animals. The facade arrangement was to set
a new architectural trend in Graz in the 17th century.

In 1895 the Viennese architect August Gunolt erected the Neues Joanneum to house the art treasures bequeathed and donated to the museum. The building is characterized by its concave main facade and a crowning dome. Up to the end of 2004, art works from the Romanesque period to late Baroque were exhibited there. This so-called Alte Galerie (old gallery) was then moved to Schloss Eggenberg. What still can be viewed is the remarkable cultural-historical collection containing 35,000 objects.

The mineralogical collection developed on the basis of Archduke John's private collection that comprised several thousand exquisite specimens. Having grown to some 80,000 exhibits, today the collection is divided into a systematic and a regional section. As the centrepiece of the overall collection both in terms of its content and its historical make-up and atmosphere, the systematic mineral collection housed in two large rooms plays an outstanding role among European mineral museums. The aim is to preserve it in its typically nineteenth-century style. These rooms also house the gem and meteorite collection.

The Styria collection comprises more than 13,000 minerals and is a geosciences archive, so to speak, of Austria's mineral-richest province. This area of the collection also features the large Styria relief on a scale of 1:37,500 from the turn of the century, and the last part of Archduke John's private collection, that was bestowed in 1911.

The rock collection and deposit collection with some 10,000 ore samples may be viewed by prior arrangement.

The Joanneum was also the work-place of Friedrich Mohs from 1812 to 1817, which Archduke John called to Graz as the first curator and professor of mineralogy. It was during his time in Graz that he also devised the ten-part (Mohs) scale of hardness that is still an important definition of hardness today.


Another Jade Mur Nockerl found in the Puntigam section of Graz and the Mineralogy Exposition Rooms at the Joanneum

So when the next time you are in Austria try to visit Graz, the hometown of the Mur Nocklern, of Friedrich Mohs and last but not least, of Arnold Schwarzenegger of nearby Thal!

Herbert Giess February 2005

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Reader Comments (1)

Als 82jähriger Steirer freue ich mich sehr. durch Ihre Publikation meine Kenntnis der Heimatgeschichte (Auslandsösterreicher seit 1961) um einiges erweitert haben zu können. Die Murnockerln waren mir seit den frühen Fünfzigerjahren ein vertrauter Begriff geworden anläßlich Teilnahme an einer Heimatfeier als farbentragender Student, aber daß diese <Steirische Spezialität> auch aus Jade bestehen kann, war für mich neu. Beim nächsten Besuch der alten Heimat im September d.J. werde ich u.a. auch deshalb das Joanneum besuchen!
April 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkuno morlip

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