Desert Varnish

This new year I have started a palaeontology course which I am enjoying enormously. Instead of just reading things up in my own books, being taught about these processes in so much depth means being able to ask questions about these wondrous transformations and really understand from a microscopic level what is going on to make these amazing specimens. It also means meeting and sharing this interest with some really nice people. Today, Annie from the course brought in a specimen of fossilised wood she picked up in Libya amidst a whole desert of stoic looking petrified timber monoliths.

Petrified Wood from Libya found by Annie

Petrified Wood from Libya found by Annie

Broken pieces of fossilised tree trunks. Image courtesy of  Temehu   http://www.temehu.com/Cities_sites/sahara- fossilised-forest.htm

Broken pieces of fossilised tree trunks. Image courtesy of Temehu http://www.temehu.com/Cities_sites/sahara-fossilised-forest.htm

Petrified wood gnarled edge

Petrified wood gnarled edge

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These burnished edges you can see are polished up in a process called "desert varnish" where dew from cool desert nights when the temperature plummets and manganese carried in the harsh winds coat and polish up portions of the fossilised wood.

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I have previously tried to emulate this textured surface in my work, (Black Beam ring below) contrasting rough and organic with burnishing, so it was great to get my hands on an actual weighty specimen of it rather than through the glass of cabinets or photos. It really was so smooth and flint-like after the organic matter in the wood had been replaced by minerals whilst it was trapped deep under the ground for millions of years. I will look forward to trying some more experiments in the workshop now I have handled a piece up close and my hands have experienced the real surface.

Black Beam ring 2012   Resin, oxidised silver, hand polished copper metallic lustre.

Black Beam ring 2012

Resin, oxidised silver, hand polished copper metallic lustre.

Purchase details available at  Not Just A Label  http://www.notjustalabel.com/shop/46919

Purchase details available at Not Just A Label http://www.notjustalabel.com/shop/46919

Underground Paris - A Journey through Space & Time

Invitation to a Journey through Space and Time

I had my first chance to explore the re-opened Catacombs under Paris in December. We were lucky enough to visit when such a unique place, full of natural history as well as the macabre structures of human bones was eerily quiet as the minus temperatures above chilled the city air.

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"Between street level and the bottom of the Catacombs, the visitor is taken back nearly 45 million years in time. You go through a succession of increasingly ancient layers of rock until you reach a bed of limestone whih corresponds to a geological period called the "Lutetian" (between 48 and 40 million years ago)."

"The Quarryman's foot-bath"

"The Quarryman's foot-bath"

"This period was first identified in Paris called "Lutetian" after the ancient name for Paris, Lutetia. The official reference profile (GSSP) for Lutetian is located in the catacombs, at the water-well that bears the name Bain de pieds des carriers ("The Quarrymen's Foot-bath")."

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"The Lutetian doesn't actually account for very much time in the history of the Earth, which is 4,500 million years old. The dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago, while modern Man has only been developing for 200 000 years,"

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natural strata and man made supports above

natural strata and man made supports above

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paris rock catacomb leaf imprint fossil.JPG
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You can read up on the Catacombs of Paris here and there will be a second more grisly post to follow...

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