This category can only be viewed by members. To view this category, sign up by purchasing Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

The first phase of an environmental geology investigation (Environmental scientists and geology: Part 1)

Deborah Painter (USA) I am an ecologist and general environmental scientist living in the USA and specialising in transportation, energy and industrial development planning to minimise deleterious environmental impacts. I have also written several articles for this magazine. As such, I appreciate just how much local geology is a vital consideration in many circumstances and especially during one of my routine responsibilities – undertaking a Phase I Hazardous Materials Site Assessment of an industrial or commercial property in the United States. This is the first of three articles on how I and other environmental scientists apply our knowledge of geology in our day to day work. But what is the purpose of these assessments? Companies such as my employer do these to benefit a person or business desiring a loan from a bank to purchase a property or to pay for upgrades. Cities and counties also contract with environmental companies for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments for properties they own and want to improve, or intend to acquire for resale to private parties. For example, city officials may have their eyes on an old former school and grounds as the future site for a new police station, and want to know how expensive it would be to renovate it as opposed to demolishing it to build a new structure. The assessment is done to satisfy the current American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard E 1527-13: Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments (2013), and the United States Environmental Protection … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Fabulous Fluorite: Derbyshire Blue John

Richard M Haw (UK) Blue John is a unique variety of blue-purple banded fluorite. Hydrocarbons or oils have been deposited on some of the crystal surfaces while the mineral was forming. These oil layers are partly responsible for giving the stone an alternate blue and white banding, best seen when the stone is cut in section. It is not known to occur anywhere else in the world and is confined to an area of about 1km³ of the Carboniferous “reef” limestones at Castleton in Derbyshire. Fig. 1. Old picture taken sometime in the 1870s, showing miners digging in the Old Dining Room, now part of the show caves. I have been involved with the public caverns here for a while and I am sure many of you have visited them. However, there are many people who have never even heard of Blue John, so the following article gives a general overview without intending to be too technical. The area Castleton is a small village located in Derbyshire’s “Peak District” between the cities of Manchester and Sheffield. The village is dominated by the ruins of Peveril Castle that was built by the Normans to oversee lead mining in the area. The scenery around Castleton forms a dramatic backdrop and the rolling limestone hills end abruptly atthe vertical face of Mam Tor. Beyond and to the north are the gritstone moors known as the “Dark Peak” that eventually lead up to the two-thousand-foot-high plateau of Kinder Scout. Castleton and the surrounding area … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Urban geology: The battery on the Sloterweg

Stephen K Donovan (The Netherlands) The city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is surrounded by a great defensive earthwork on its landward side, the Stelling van Amsterdam (= Defence Line of Amsterdam), along which are a series of forts and batteries (Figs. 1A-E and 2). This major structure was built between 1880 and 1914. The principle feature of this defensive system is a raised earthen embankment or dyke, still imposing today although breached or flattened in many places to make way for modern developments, most commonly roads. The embankment is often flanked by two canals, one on either side. Fig. 1. (A, B) The Battery on the Sloterweg, Hoofddorp, Noord Holland, the Netherlands.(A) General view of the Battery, looking approximately northwest.(B) Nameplate.(C-E) Three views of the restored embankment between the Battery on the Sloterweg and Hoofddorp station.(C) The view southeast on the northeast side of the embankment from the R-Net bus stop (routes 300 and 310) at Hoofddorp station, looking towards the Battery. The cycle path crosses the bridge and continues away from the photographer. Note the blue tractor scraping the embankment.(D) The view southeast on the southwest side of the embankment from the R-Net bus stop at Hoofddorp station, looking towards the Battery (at the end of the path in the distance). Again, note the tractor scraping the surface.(E) The view northwest from the Battery, looking towards Hoofddorp station, showing the ‘exposure’ in the foreground, which was particularly productive of builders’ rubble, including lithic fragments.(F) Details of the granite … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Book review: Trilobites, Dinosaurs and Mammoths: An introduction to the prehistory of the British Isles, by James McKay (for the Palaeontological Association)

This is an interesting little booklet and very much a new departure for the Palaeontological Association. You will be aware that I have reviewed several of its many excellent fossil guides in this magazine. However, this recently published tome is somewhat different.

Urban geology: An inselberg in Rotterdam

Stephen K Donovan (The Netherlands) The Low Netherlands, much of which is below sea level, is a broad area of the country that (very approximately) parallels the coast and is kept ‘dry’ by major works of civil engineering (IDG, 1985, pp. 6-7). Geologically, it is a flat expanse of Holocene deposits; most of the author’s experience is in the coastal plain (de Gans, 2007), where I both live and work. There is no significantly older geological deposit or feature anywhere in this region – no coastal cliffs, mountains or quarries to tempt the attention of the wandering Earth scientist. So, it is commonly the ex situ that demands the geologist’s attention rather than the in situ. For example, I have commented previously on such diverse topics as the use of imported limestone to make a false natural bridge (Donovan, 2014), various aspects of building stones (for example, Donovan, 2015, 2019) and gabions mimicking sedimentary bedding, at least from a distance (Donovan, 2018). Of these examples, the natural bridge is the most exotic; although such a bridge might be expected in karstified limestone landscapes almost anywhere, my own experiences of them are limited to the Antilles (Miller and Donovan, 1999; Donovan et al., 2014). In this article, I describe a further man-made structure mimicking an even more exotic geomorphological phenomenon, most closely associated in the minds of Earth scientists with Africa. It is a structure that I have, until now, only known from textbooks – I refer to a mock inselberg … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Urban geology: Brush up your neoichnology

Stephen K Donovan (The Netherlands) It was a dry Saturday in February (2014), but it was blowing a gale such that some gusts stopped me dead in my tracks. My son, Pelham, and I were out for a walk in the Haarlemmermeersebos, which roughly translates as ‘the wood of the lake of Haarlem’. The area where we live, which includes the nearby Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport, is the bed of a lake that was drained over 160 years ago. So it is a flat, featureless, polder landscape (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1985, pp. 10-11), apart from what man has put into it; and is criss-crossed by canals and, less commonly, dotted by lakes. The canals in the Haarlemmermeersebos landscape that are intended for water transport are few; rather, most are part of the water management system in a landscape that is below sea level. In such a landscape, the weekend geologist must look hard for ‘exposures’. Building and decorative stones are always of interest (Donovan, 2014). Beachcombing on the nearby North Sea coast can be rewarding, particularly after storms when Quaternary peat clasts are washed up on the shore (Donovan, 2013). But, in truth, there is more potential for the geomorphologist than the geologist or palaeontologist. The point of our excursion in a gale was to model palaeontological collecting and to hone our observational skills in the open air. I had discovered a path paved with many hundreds of recent sea shells and rare flint pebbles in the Haarlemmermeersebos (Fig. … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Check those damaged ‘Megalodon’ teeth

Michael E Howgate (UK) Back in the days when I gave my ‘Doctor Dinosaur’ talks to museums, school groups and ‘gifted children’, I would take with me: a plaster cast of the Baryonyx claw; a beach rolled Iguanodon vertebra; and, star of the show, ‘a fossilised dinosaur poo’ (which, in reality, was an Ichthyosaurus coprolite from Lyme Regis). These were some of my collection of props, which helped engage the children through what might otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill slide presentation. Some of the bits-and-pieces I picked up to pass around among the children were a selection of broken and hence dirt cheap Carcharodon megalodon teeth (Fig. 1). (I use Carcharodon instead of the more correct Carcharocles as it is still in common use. The term ‘Megalodon tooth’ is often used by fossil dealers as a short-hand term.) These stood in for the teeth of every child’s favourite dinosaur, the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. I would pass the teeth round and get the children to feel the serrated edge as a prelude to explaining how a serrated blade was better at cutting steak – or even a loaf of bread – than a sharper carving knife. “Only try this at home if you are supervised by both parents” was my health and safety rider at the end of this explanation. Fig. 1. Half of a C. megalodon tooth. A cheap and cheerful stand-in for a T. rex tooth. Carcharodon (now Carcharocles) megalodon, which used to be considered the ancestor of the … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Writhlington revisited: A polychrome perspective (Part 3)

Biddy Jarzembowski, Chris Proctor and Ed Jarzembowski (UK) In this concluding part of the mini-series, we show the archaic wet forest at Writhlington (Fig. 9) which is the most familiar palaeohabitat associated with the Carboniferous age of coal. In the absence of flowering plants, the forest was less biodiverse than today’s tropical forest and more varied along the river banks (Fig. 5 in Part 2) than in the swamp. We also look in on the denizens of a forest pool (Fig. 10) and restore an extinct giant millipede (Fig. 11), one of the largest arthropods that ever lived, represented by tracks and body fossils there. An archaeorthopteran insect was seen at a distance in Part 1 (Fig. 3) and a brand-new image of another, but close up, is presented here (Fig. 12). The fossiliferous rock tipped at Writhlington represents only a fraction of Carboniferous time, much more being locked up in the mass of peat that turned into coal. The latter went mainly to fire Portishead Power Station in North Somerset and would have included peatland palaeohabitats not reconstructed here. It is the ancient fresh-water floodplain (making up the miner’s ‘roof shale’) that has been explored in detail so far. More information can be found in:Jarzembowski, E. A. 2004. Atlas of animals from the Late Westphalian of Writhlington, United Kingdom. Geologica Balcanica, 34: 47-50, pls 1-2.  Jarzembowski, E. A. 2018. Writhlington Geological Nature Reserve. In Geological sites of the Bristol Region. BRERC, Bristol.Proctor, C. J. and Jarzembowski, E. A. 1999. Habitat … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Book review: Recreating an age of reptiles, by Mark P Witton

I like palaeoart. I recently went to the ‘Dinosaurs of China’ exhibition in Nottingham (reviewed in Issue 51 of this magazine) and bought myself a copy of the Chinese palaeoartist, Zhao Chuang’s ‘The Age of Dinosaurs’ – a veritable picture-fest of up-to-date reconstructions of ancient beasts and plants, complete with fuzzy raptors and other bird-like therapods.

Writhlington revisited: A polychrome perspective (Part 2)

Biddy Jarzembowski, Chris Proctor and Ed Jarzembowski (UK) In Part 1 of this article (Writhlington revisited (Part 1): A polychrome perspective), we focused on forest arthropods associated with scale trees (Figs. 1 to 4) that were found in the Coal Measures of Writhlington batch, near Radstock, in southwest England. We now move on to other palaeohabitats represented there some 308 million years ago. All too often, reconstructions and restorations of the Carboniferous combine diverse organisms in a single view of the terrestrial realm. (They are frequently likened to the modern Amazon, but apart from being tropical with luxuriant vegetation, the ancient communities differed in composition, species richness and sedimentary environment.) We have departed from this with several different scenes here based on the fossil assemblages and rock lithologies: mixed forest (Fig. 5), river floodplain (Fig. 6) and river channel, the latter with some large (Fig. 7) and small (Fig. 8) animals. Fig. 5. The mixed forest is depicted on drier swamp margins as near the raised river banks (levees). This diverse community is still dominated by scale trees (Lepidodendron and Sigillaria species) but with an understorey of seed ferns (Alethopteris and Neuropteris spp.) and tree ferns (Pecopteris sp.). The more herbaceous cover is provided by horsetails (Sphenophyllum, Calamites and Annularia spp.). The plant names are given generically because the species are based on details of bark and foliage which are too small to see in the painting. Fig. 6. A muddy, upper delta floodplain with temporary shallow lakes and ponds … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Writhlington revisited: A polychrome perspective (Part 1)

Biddy Jarzembowski, Chris Proctor and Ed Jarzembowski (UK) Thanks to ‘King Coal’, it is perhaps all too easy to visualise the Carboniferous Period – and especially the Pennsylvanian Subperiod – in black and white or shades of grey. The Earth’s first tropical forests – which gave us peat which turned to coal – were, however, perhaps no less colourful than some modern forests. The long-term project at Writhlington, near Radstock, currently in Bath and North East Somerset (UK), has produced a rich fossil record from the Farrington Formation dating back some 308myrs BP (to the late Asturian (Westphalian D) subage or late Moscovian). Not only has it produced many specimens, but has also allowed meaningful correlation between fossil assemblages and rock types (lithologies) left discarded on the waste tip (batch) of the former Lower Writhlington Colliery. (The finds at Writhlington can be explored by a list of further reading, which will be given in Part 3.) In the closing years of the last century, one of us (Chris) produced several reconstructions in traditional black and white, which illustrated several learned papers and regional museum displays. These included the palaeohabitat as well as selected species. Here, Biddy has applied paint brush and water colours for the first time to these scientific restorations for a new audience – tantalisingly, due to the remoteness of the age of coal. Ed has composed some explanatory notes to accompany the pictures in this three-part mini-series. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the RJG Savage … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Book review: Measures for Measure: Geology and the Industrial Revolution, by Mike Leeder

I sat down to read this over Christmas and what a good read it turned out to be. The appropriate word is ‘eclectic’ – because Measures for Measure is written for all us with an interest in the industrial history of Great Britain, and its impact on the landscape, economy, social history and culture. It’s a great read as it dots about linking places and ideas together, with the link always being the geology.

Agates: A brief introduction to agates in the UK

P W Forster (UK) I have many years of experience collecting and cutting agates. It was my wife who originally had an enthusiasm for these beautiful semi-precious stones and it was because of her enthusiasm that I developed an interest that has now become an obsessive hobby for the both of us. Cabinets in our home evidence the wide range of specimen stones that an amateur collector can discover. Each specimen has identification labels and is catalogued to show the date and the region where it was found. Before starting my first collecting foray, I obtained as much information on the subject as was available. To this end, I found the book ‘Agates’ by H G McPherson most useful. (This book, together with ‘Agate collecting in Britain’ by P R Rodgers, has been extensively used in the writing of this article.) From my research, it became apparent that the Midland Valley of Scotland contained many of the best deposits of agates in Great Britain. With this in mind, we paid the first of many visits to the region. We started searching along the east coast of Ayrshire. This coast abounds with small coves of pebble beaches and large stretches of andersite larvas that stretch out to sea. During the first year, we amassed a large amount of what we thought were agates, but closer examination revealed that we had collected some colourful specimens of jasper as well as some lovely quartz pebbles. This first attempt had revealed that those agates … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Bringing the best out of your fossils: Tips on the preparation of fossils

Byron Blessed (UK) As many of us know, a good day’s fossil hunting rarely stops when we leave the beach. However, many people do not know what to do with a fossil once they’ve found it. So, here are a few pointers in the art of fossil preparation. This article will not only outline what equipment you will need but will also give you general guidelines on how to use it. Fig. 1. The various stages of prep-work. Nautilusastercoides, found in the Upper Lias, Sandsend,near Whitby in North Yorkshire, UK. The first thing that any fossil preparator needs (and it isn’t something you can buy) is a lot of patience. The second thing you need is … a lot of patience! This cannot be stressed enough. Fossil preparation is a long, sometimes boring and laborious process and it is all too easy to damage specimens by being too hasty! It must also be noted that fossil preparation is not something that can easily and successfully be taken up overnight. Most of the best preparators have been in the business for decades. To think that you can immediately match their skills over night is naïve to say the least. Like any good hobby or job, practice makes perfect. In addition, it can be very costly to get all the right kit so this can become an expensive hobby. Washing specimens under the tap is a good, first step and will reveal hidden detail by removing unwanted mud and sand. Many clays … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Geology museums of Britain: The Museum of London

Jon Trevelyan (UK) In Issue 60 of Deposits, I restarted my occasional series on UK geological museum with a visit to the Booth Museum in Brighton (see Geology museums of Britain: The Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton). Having more time on my hands than I would like during the Covid-19 lockdown, I got to thinking about a recent visit I made to the Museum of London in the Barbican in the City of London. I expect that most people would not link this excellent museum to anything geological, but they would be wrong. In fact, there are many exhibits from the prehistory of the capital and these include fossils of animals that lived in the region and stone tools from our ancient ancestors, who shared the area (Figs. 1 and 2). Fig. 1. A somewhat demonic looking auroch (Bos primigenius), which is an extinct species of large, wild cattle. These were domestic during the Neolithic Revolution, such that modern breeds share characteristics of the aurochs. Fig. 2. Flint tools found at Swanscombe. In fact, the museum’s oldest items date back to when London was tundra and the local population would fit into one of its iconic double-decker buses. During these times, there were several different species of humans occupying the Thames Valley, firstly as hunter gatherers and only later creating fixed settlements. Human and animal species roamed the open steppe-tundra, until their final disappearance about 30,000 years ago; and Neanderthal groups probably shared the valley with modern humans. And … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Baths and batholiths

Deborah Painter (USA) “Look over there!” I exclaimed as I stood on the grounds of a manufacturing plant and stared across the tracks of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to the east of the plant. I was pointing at several mountains a few kilometres in the distance. “That mountain is glowing!” Standing alongside me was James, the plant’s maintenance supervisor. “I guess because I’ve seen this for the past 14 years, I don’t even pay attention anymore” was his reply. The mountain was not glowing due to any internal source but because exceptionally light toned granites captured and reflected rays of sun streaming from behind a December cloud cover (Fig. 1). Fig. 1. The mountain glowed in the shaft of light, as the sun peeked from behind a cloud. (Credits: Deborah Painter.) The mountains looked like this for most of that chilly day and the glow shifted from mountain to mountain (Fig. 2). Fig. 2. A remarkable combination of December light and greyish-white toned granites produced this day-long glow in the Bernasconi Hills. (Credits: Deborah Painter.) The granitic mountain cluster was in Perris, a city in Riverside County, California in the USA. I have had the good fortune to visit this county twice recently on two separate and unrelated trips a few years apart. And my friend, Mike Ramsey, had been with me on both trips to this same county. He was with me and a friend late in November when we visited another friend in nearby Moreno … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Skye: Island of Dreams

Anthony Rybek (UK) Having lived on the Isle of Skye since 2007, I consider myself to be very fortunate to have every day opportunities to fulfil my hunger for the wilderness, natural world and two of my greatest passions, fossil hunting and geology. So, it was of no surprise to me that, during these times immersed in this dramatic and mostly unspoiled landscape, yet another passion would evolve – oil painting. Fig. 1. Anthony Rybek, working on a painting. Like all my pursuits, I am self-taught and, as I began to learn and practice painting techniques, it soon became clear that I had a degree of aptitude for this art form. I found it similar to my earliest fossil hunting trips where, once I tasted success and the thrill of discovering new and amazing fossils, the desire to learn more and improve my skills grew deeper and deeper. My painting is no different. It wouldn’t take long before the subject matter for my landscape paintings would cross paths with fossil hunts and geology. Skye has an abundance of iconic geological landmarks and I feel privileged to have a basic understanding of the geological processes that help shape these formations. And it is these dramatic scenes that are the main influence of many of my paintings. The Trotternish Ridge In the northern half of Skye, this is the dominant feature of the Trotternish Ridge, which runs like the spine of an ancient creature between the islands capital Portree and the infamous … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Cameos from Ancient Greece and Rome: Small but precious treasures

Dr Robert Sturm (Austria) When talking about precious or semi-precious gemstones, most people think of the diamonds they cannot afford or rubies, agates and similar well-known minerals. But, only a few people know that gemstones have been subjected to various carving techniques since ancient times, making from them small but marvellous works of art. Basically, the most commonly applied technique of gem carving is the so-called cameo, which, in most cases, features a raised relief and, therefore, differs from the so-called intaglio that has an engraved or negative image. Ancient cameos date back as far as the third century BC and were first produced in Greece, where they mainly served as jewellery for the Hellenistic kings and their retinues. In ancient Rome, cameos and similar works of art were highly popular, especially in the family circle of the Emperor Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD), who developed a great affection for this kind of art. Roman cameos generally continued Hellenistic styles and were marked by only very few innovations. The extremely high quality of gem carving (which will be discussed more in detail below) was maintained until the end of the second century AD, but, with the beginning of the third century AD, it was subject to a sharp decline that can also be seen in other fields of art. During the European Middle Ages, cameos were highly appreciated by the aristocracy, but, nevertheless, the production practices developed in the ancient world found their application only in very rare cases, … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Geo Junkets: New Zealand, North Island (Part 3)

Jesse Garnett White (USA) Kohioawa Beach and Matatā Escarpment, Putauaki Volcano and the Kawerau Geothermal Field Kohioawa Beach and Matatā escarpment Kohioawa Beach, an uninterrupted sweep of sandy beach, dunes and wetlands, is directly below the near vertical Matatā escarpment between the towns of Otamarakau and Matatā. The escarpment gradually gains elevation to its highest point behind Matatā. Infrequently cut by active and inactive canyons, flowing streams debouche across the beach into the Bay of Plenty. Atop the escarpment are rare, mature pohutukawa, puriri and manuka, and various types of scrub and grass. Part and parcel of the Whakatane Graben, the terraced escarpment is composed of Castlecliffian marine sediments, remnants of the Aranuian Interglacial period. On the western margin of the graben near Matatā, marine sandstone and siltstone outcrops contain bivalves, gastropods, crustaceans, sponge spicules and microfossils, overlain by tuffaceous sediments, ignimbrite gravels and conglomerate (Nairn and Beanland, 1989). The coastal dune and wetland areas of the Rangitaiki Plains and Tarawera River Valley near Matatā exhibit Holocene backswamp and floodplain deposits, including levees and meander sediments associated the Awatarariki, Waimea and Waitepuru stream catchments. The catchments rise from sea level to 370m elevation and drain into the Bay of Plenty. The Awatarariki and Waitepuru wetlands were destroyed in 2005 by large, storm-induced debris flows and associated floodwaters. Waimea was largely unaffected, retaining the majority of its pre-storm event character. Matatā township was severely impacted by debris flows, with over a hundred homes and properties damaged or destroyed. Prior to the … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Geo Junkets: New Zealand , North Island (Part 2)

Jesse Garnett White (USA) The Waipoua Forest and Parataiko Range I viewed the tilted volcanic outcrops of early Miocene Waipoua Basalt above the Waimamaku River (Fig. 1), then drove into the small town of Waimamaku. I saw a backpacker standing on the sidewalk thumbing a ride holding a paperback in her left hand. She had freckles, black-rimmed glasses, and long blonde dreadlocks. Unrolling my window as I pulled the vehicle over, she walked up to the car, “Can I put my stuff in the back seat and sit up front with you?”. “Absolutely!” I replied. She tossed her hefty pack inside, hopped into the front seat, looked me directly in the eyes, and asked, “Where are you heading?” Reaching out to shake her hand, I finally managed to reply, “I have no idea! My name is Jesse.” “My name is Clear. I am going into the Waipoua Kauri Forest and then hope to get south of Auckland.” And so it was that we decided to stick together until it was time to part and that is exactly what we did. Fig. 1. Early Miocene Waipoua Basalt above the Waimamaku River. We visited Tane Mahuta (The Giant Kauri Tree) in the Waipoua Forest. Joining a busload of German tourists, we walked through disinfecting stations (Fig. 2) where the soles of our shoes were scrubbed down and sprayed with disinfectant. Fig. 2. Waipoua Forest disinfecting stations. Tane Mahuta was immense (Fig. 3). The girth of the trunk, height and sprawling canopy signified … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

West Runton revisited

Jan Willem van der Drift (The Netherlands) Historic finds In 1900, nobody knew what kind of tools man used before the handaxe. Some scholars assumed that early-man used ‘eoliths’ – handy natural forms. That theory turned out to be false. The earliest tools were manmade flakes and cores, and this is now called Mode-I. James Reid Moir was one of the first to make claims about such tools and Fig. 1 shows a flake on which Reid Moir wrote that it came from below the Weybourne Crag near Cromer. Fig. 1. This flake was found over a century ago by Reid Moir (drawing from reference 1). However, the flaking angles, the form of the bulb and other fracture-signals on Reid Moir’s flakes differ slightly from what we see on flakes found in Neolithic sites or in connection with handaxes. This led most archaeologists to believe that Reid Moir’s flakes were not manmade. Rediscovery In the 1980s, Dutch collectors found pebble tools in aggregate that was dredged from the sea, offshore from Norfolk. A group of four collectors (Ab Lagerweij, André Cardol, John de Koning and Herman van der Made) decided to visit East Anglia and search for sites on land. They hoped to find pebble tools in the Cromer Forest Bed, which is a freshwater deposit dated to the Cromerian, which contains fossils from steppe mammoth, rhinoceros and horse. The Anglian glaciers covered this formation with sand, gravel and till, but it lies exposed on the coast. The four did … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

The Bhimbetka rock shelters and paintings of India

Khursheed Dinshaw (India) The naturally formed rock shelters and caves of Bhimbetka in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India (Fig. 1) have a number of interesting paintings, which depict the lives of the people who lived here (Fig. 2). These rock shelters exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India. The Stone Age rock paintings can be seen on the walls, ceilings and hollows, and were created during a period when microliths were evolved. The paintings date back to the Mesolithic period. Fig. 1. The first rock shelter that greets you at Bhimbetka. Fig. 2. Rock art showing daily life at Bhimbetka. Due to their integrated nature, the Bhimbetka rock shelters were included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2003. From the UNESCO website, it is clear that two of the criterion for the selection were: Bhimbetka reflects a long interaction between the people and the landscape, as demonstrated in the quantity and quality of its rock art.The area is closely associated with a hunting and gathering economy as can be seen in the pictures below, as shown in the rock art and in the relics of this tradition in the local Adivasi village on the periphery of this site (The name ‘Adivasi’ is an umbrella term for a heterogeneous group of ethnic and tribal groups, which are thought to be the aboriginal population of India.)The excavations carried out have yielded evidence of continuous human occupation from the Lower Palaeolithic until Medieval times. During this long span of … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Brighter future for an old natural wonder

Deborah Painter (USA) During the 1700s, when North American colonies were under British rule, a certain highly intelligent and educated man by the name of Thomas Jefferson heard of a remarkable natural arch in west central Virginia, to the southwest of his home in Charlottesville. He purchased hectares of land surrounding the stone arch from King George III for 20 shillings. Since he bought this land in the year 1774, it was a well-timed transaction. The King might not have dealt so amenably with Jefferson following his involvement in writing the Declaration of Independence. The future third President of the United States was immensely interested in both architecture and natural history, and showed his understanding of both in his description: “… the arch approaches the semi-elliptical form, but the larger axis of the ellipsis, which would be the cord of the arch, is many times longer than the transverse”. Cedar Creek runs beneath the Natural Bridge of Virginia, which, in the 1800s, was named one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. The creek flows through a gorge. Native Americans of the Monacan tribe had for many thousands of years camped beneath Virginia’s Natural Bridge during hunting expeditions and made use of Cedar Creek’s water. They also found the bridge itself useful as a crossing. When the Commonwealth of Virginia divided its western frontier into counties, it named the county containing the natural wonder ‘Rockbridge County’. Early explorers of the 1700s were awestruck by how this towering dolostone and … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Wealden Insects: An artist’s impression (Part 3)

Biddy Jarzembowski, Neil Watson and Ed Jarzembowski (UK) This is the third part of the mini-series in which selected Early Cretaceous insects from the Wealden of Southern England are restored in colour for the first time. The aim is to give a visual idea of the variety of British insect life some 130mya at the height of the ‘Age of Dinosaurs’. There are some notable absentees like butterflies, ants and bees – these had yet to evolve. Some insect groups are no longer found in the UK, such as termites, archaic beetles and silky lacewings. New insect species, including the first Wealden earwigs, have been collected during the geologically short time during which the figures were painted. Hopefully, these will appear in future issues. Fig. 14. A rare stonefly nymph or larva belonging to an extinct genus and species, Ecdyoperla fairlightensis Sinitshenkova, from the Hastings Group. Unlike in Asia, stoneflies are little known from the Early Cretaceous of Northwest Europe because of water quality issues – they prefer cool, upland streams not often found in the geological record. This species is based on a find made by collectors associated with the infamous Piltdown Hoax, but appears to be quite genuine. The restoration is inspired by recent Megarcys and some of the quartz pebbles are coated with algae. Fig. 15. A distinctive cockroach belonging to an extinct genus and species, Elisama molossa (Westwood). from the Weald Clay – but also found in the Purbeck Limestone Group. The colours were inspired by … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Wealden Insects: An artist’s impression (Part 2)

Biddy Jarzembowski, Neil Watson and Ed Jarzembowski (UK) This collection of illustrations, the second in the series, continues with seven more watercolour insects from the Wealden. Fig. 7. A damselfly of the extinct genus and species, Cretacoenagrion alleni Jarzembowski, on a horsetail from the Weald Clay. It belongs to its own extinct family, Cretacoenagrioniidae, which shows some resemblance to living Coenagrion (which is usually blue-bodied) and Lestes (typically metallic green). However, we chose neither colour and opted for red, which is sometimes seen in south-eastern damselflies. Fig. 8. A true dragonfly belonging to an extinct genus and species, Angloaeschnidium toyei Fleck and Nel from the Weald Clay. This species of the extinct Mesozoic family, Aeschnidiidae, has distinct, dark-patterned wings. Female aeschnidiids display conspicuous ovipositors (pointed egg-laying organs like Panorpidium tessellatum, which was illustrated in Part 1 of this article). The body colour is therefore inspired by modern Cordulegaster, which also has a prominent ovipositor. The wings and legs have been repositioned or tucked away in this restoration, which shows the insect in directional flight. Fig. 9. A bush cricket belonging to an extinct genus and species, Pseudaboilus wealdensis Gorochov, Jarzembowski and Coram, from the Weald Clay. It belongs to the now relict family, Prophalangopsidae, and has dark-mottled forewings used in singing (stridulation) by males. The body colour is inspired by modern Prophalangopsis and Cyphoderris. Sadly, the former genus, the only prophalangopsid with fully-developed wings as in the fossil, is now thought to have become extinct due to human action.Fig. 10. … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Wealden insects: An artist’s impression (Part 1)

Biddy Jarzembowski, Neil Watson and Ed Jarzembowski (UK) Fossil arthropods carry their skeletons on the outsides of their bodies. These exoskeletons may not only be preserved in the fossil record, but also the colour patterns that once adorned them. Therefore, the reconstruction and restoration of the appearance of fossil insects can sometimes be easier and more objective than that of animals that carry their hard parts on the insides of their bodies (such as dinosaurs). In the 1990s, one of us (Neil) undertook the first artistic impressions in pencil and ink of newly-discovered Wealden insect remains from the Early Cretaceous of southern England. A selection of these subsequently appeared in newsletters, books and journals as black-and-white drawings of the whole animal in a life-like pose. Four-colour reproduction is now so widespread, as in this magazine, and more intact fossils have been found, especially in China, that a colour update was needed. However, in this age of computer graphics, Biddy has only used a paint brush and water colours to tint Neil’s images, preserving the original hand-drawn style, and only resorting to Paint software where anatomical details needed changing in the light of new knowledge. Full colour also brought new challenges: decisions had to be made on hues as well as shades. Therefore, Ed has composed some explanatory notes to accompany the pictures. We hope that the first half-dozen results are less artistic licence and more visual models of these ancient life forms. You are, of course, the judge. Fig. 1. … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.

Fifteenth century magico-medicinal minerals

Chris Duffin (UK) The Hortus Sanitatis (1491) On 23 June 1491, a new volume was printed and bound for distribution in the German University town of Mainz. The publisher was Jacob von Meydenbach, who might also have been responsible for compiling many of the entries in the book. The volume was based partly on an earlier work entitled Gart der Gesundheit, which was also published in Mainz, but this time by Peter Schöffer, an apprentice of Johannes Gutenberg. This famous pioneer revolutionised mass product printing in the 1450s by developing the use of movable type. Schöffer continued to innovate in this medium after Gutenberg’s death in 1468, experimenting with page sizes, numbers of lines to a column, the arrangement of text blocks and font styles, and the use of woodcuts as illustrations. His Gart der Gesundheit, published in 1483, only a few decades after the inception of the printing revolution, was an immediate success. Meydenbach’s Hortus Sanitatis was prepared as a sort of sequel to the Gart; more ambitious in scope, it was rather longer with additional entries and, importantly for us, a section on stones (Fig. 1). Fig. 1. A double page spread from the De Lapidibus section of Hortus Sanitatis (1491). Wellcome Collection, London.Gart der Gesundheit (German) and Hortus Sanitatis (Latin) both translate as The Garden of Health, giving an indication of the thrust of the volume – here was a treatise on the medicinal virtues of materials from the natural world. The section on stones (De Lapidibus), … Read More

To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription, 12 Month Subscription or Monthly subscription.