Layers

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Tiny trilobite graveyard preserved between the layers of a Cambrian Shale.

There’s a spot on the Conasauga River in northwest Georgia where you can visit a late Cambrian ocean preserved in a 500-million-year old shale. Shale is a relatively soft mudstone that splits easily along laminar planes, so with just a Swiss army knife or flathead screwdriver, you can split the pieces of stone that litter the river bank and often find the remains of some of the oldest complex life on Earth.

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These trilobites lived half a billion years ago when multicellular life was brand new to the oceans (and long before it had colonized the land).  They died 200 million years before the Earth dreamed of dinosaurs or assembled all the continents into one big Pangea-shaped piece. Their little carcasses then drifted to the bottom of the Iapetus Ocean off the coast of Laurentia and were buried in all the soft silty stuff on the sea bottom which eventually became shale liberally salted with their flattened fossils.

 

If you’d like to learn just a little more about trilobites, check out this link:

http://www.trilobites.info/triloecology.htm

Or if you’d like to learn a lot more about the fossils from this site, here’s an excellent paper:

http://ldsp01.columbusstate.edu:8080/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11075/388/schwimmer.d._2012_anaphelaspiszone_southeasterngeology.pdf?sequence=3

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Why My Living Room Looks Like a Cabinet of Curiosities

I ascribe to the cabinet of curiosities school of interior design. Almost everything on display in my living room is something I found on a beach, in the woods, on a river bank, chiseled out of a limestone cliff, or dug out of the dump piles of an abandoned mine.

I am by nature, a collector and a natural history buff. I started with seashells when I was a kid on all those summer trips to my grandparents’ house in Florida. As an adult, I lived in and around Austin for 10 years on the edge of the Texas hill country. I went hiking almost every weekend and quickly discovered that Austin sits right on top hundreds of feet of Cretaceous limestone deposited by an ancient sea, and you can find marine fossils at almost every road cut or creek bed in the area. So I collected 100 million year old sea urchins and oysters and ammonites. Later, when my family and I lived in Asheville, NC, on the bones of old mountains chock full of gems and interesting minerals, I began hiking to old mines sites and collecting kyanite and garnet and apatite and beryl. Sometimes, in my travels in the woods, I came across antlers or turtle shells or bird’s nests and I brought those home, too.

Three years ago, we moved to our current home, and I quickly discovered that the rocks of this area contain neither fossils nor particularly interesting rocks. And we’re 3 hours from the ocean, so shells and sharks’ teeth are only an option once or twice a year. So I began collecting bugs and birds by camera. Photos took up so much less room. But still, in the winter particularly, I need something to satisfy my collecting urges so I fall back on a more urban addiction – thrift stores. Here, I comb through the detritus of the culture that spawned me, and drag home whatever strikes my fancy. (If you want to know how it began, see my post, Confession of a Thrift Store Junkie.) And once a week, I post one of my finds, here.

My Thrift Pick of the Week is kind of a double whammy – a product of disposable American pop culture and an homage to one of my oldest collecting habits – a fake fossil of a triceratops skull I got for $3.00 at my favorite second-hand establishment (an interesting collection of cultural flotsam that goes by the name of Everything But Granny’s Panties).