Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Friday, 27 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Old Willie comes in. He's been in already today, asking for the loan of a wee screwdriver, to fix his TV. He still wants a wee screwdriver, to fix his TV. I still don't have one. Tomorrow morning is no use, because he can buy a set tomorrow morning anyway. He's desperate, so we cut a couple of bits of card into likely shapes, and he seems happy. He tells me there are some great fossils in here. Great fossils. Then tells me that he had found some once, and some pink stone. A guy from
He points at the Exogyra shells. 'Are these the ones you eat?'
'Well, they're related to oysters, so I suppose you could.' He picks up a silicified Turitella. 'Are these good?'
'Well, we don't sell that many. They're ok.' He puts it in his mouth and starts to crunch loudly on it. 'No, no - don't eat it. It's stone.'
'Yeah - it's fossilised. It's a fossil.'
'Oh.' Crunch. Crunch. ' I thought it was one o’ theym you could eat.'
Eventually, after some chewing, he spits some bits of it out. I hold out some tissue paper, but he puts it in his pocket. 'Out o’ the way.' Crunch.
He tells me about when he stopped cutting wood and went fishing in a boat. He knew where the oysters where, and caught huge haddock and herring. The fisherman asked him where he found them and he showed him. When he goes for a walk he keeps his eye open. If he finds something, he'll tip me a nod. He shakes my hand. 'Great fossils.' He shakes my hand again.
Crunch. Crunch. 'Christ - I'm still chewin’ that @*&#. I thought it was one o’ theym wee fish.' Crunch.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Of all the pebbles I could have picked up, my fingers found this one. I was searching for pretty stones and fossils with my kids and I was absolutely dumbfounded when I saw the image on this little stone. Everyone with whom I've since shared pics or shown the actual stone is also equally amazed that nature conspired to create such a fossilized relic - a true work of art. "Absolutely amazing!", is the best phrase to describe it. I never would have expected to see such a naturally occurring sight, let alone, hold it in my hand.This little stone is about the size of a penny and weighs about the same. It is 11 mm (7/16") wide, 17 mm (11/16") long and between 2 mm to 3 mm (1/16" to 1/8") thick. I don't know what type of stone this is. Its mostly smooth surface has been naturally polished by the waves and its tumble amongst the other beach pebbles.
Consider the odds! Not only was a fossil created a long, long, time ago (usually a lot of luck or pure happenstance anyway), but this combination of rock, sand, organic material, and whatever else was created in the image of Christ! Add to that the billions of little stones that line every beach. Four months ago, I happened to be on the right beach at the right time and picked up the right stone.
He is seen from the chest up, glancing to His right, and dressed in layers of robes. At first glance, I thought there was a halo of "light" around the top of His head but then noticed the image of an angel - from the chest up - within that halo of light looking down upon Him. There is some light behind the angel's back, illuminating his/her wings.
I am not going to presume the meaning behind this amazing find. What it means to me may not be what it means to you. But I do recognize the incredible odds that created this image and I'm personally spellbound by that fact alone. As a stone - this is a forever keepsake! Why am I selling? I am certain that the nature of the image will hold more meaning for someone else. I am proud to be the owner of this amazing work of art, but perhaps for another, owning this stone will have more significance.
I hope the pictures I've taken sufficiently show off the detail of this amazing find. Feel free to ask questions.
Friday, 30 October 2009
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Monday, 12 October 2009
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Friday, 2 October 2009
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Friday, 18 September 2009
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Tektites are lumps of natural glass formed from terrestrial rock on the impact of a meteorite. The instantly molten rock is thrown high into the air, cooling and solidifying on the way down, so is often distributed some distance away from the impact crater. Not all meteorites have created tektites -in fact so far there are only a handful of tektite sources.
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Saturday, 29 August 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Monday, 17 August 2009
Monday, 10 August 2009
There's a film out at the moment called Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. Now, while I'm sure that almost everyone has a soft spot for giant-sized sea beasties - and especially sharks and octopuses - this film will probably not be an oscar winner. Harsh to judge a film on its title alone, but... You know.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
One of the things I get asked about a lot in the shop is bismuth. Bismuth is an elemental metal that's grouped with arsenic and antimony. Unlike those, however, it's not (very) poisonous. In fact, one of it's main uses until relatively recently has been in stomach medicines for various reasons. Pepto-bismol, for example.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Monday, 27 July 2009
A problem I encounter relatively frequently is one of common names. More for minerals than fossils, but there are examples of both. I mentioned briefly when writing about chalcopyrite that it is often called peacock ore. It's pretty clear where the name comes from in that case. It's shiny and colourful - so are peacocks. It's not always so obvious.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Friday, 3 July 2009
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
Monday, 22 June 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
It's a strange day when I don't sell a piece of chalcopyrite. There are a handful of minerals that sell far more then any other. Three or four calcite types, iron pyrite, and chalcopyrite.
Friday, 5 June 2009
Thursday, 4 June 2009
St Marie aux Mines is a small Alsation town, and the fossil and mineral show takes over a large part of it for a week in June. A few central streets are fenced off and tents erected all over the place. A few of the locals get a bit fed up, understandably, but the town does very well from it financially .
Friday, 29 May 2009
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
When Riley asked what happened to the animals found in the fossil record that are no longer running around, the answer was that the wicked animals had not been saved. Whether this slight twist is the party line or not, I have no idea. But I like it as an explanation...
The dinosaurs all died because they were naughty.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
There's a very rich Cretaceous site in the Kem Kem area of Morocco. Lots of dinosaur teeth are found there. Lots. The stone is mostly a crumbly, pinkish sandstone and while the teeth and bones found are quite fragile, the preservation can be remarkably good. There are a few animals found in the stratigraphy - the T.rex-like Carcharodontosaurus, the sauropod Rebacchisaurus, the raptor Deltadromeus, crocodiles and a pterosaur, Sirrocopteryx.
For me, though, the most notable find of this area is Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. Spinosaurus was originally found and named in Egypt in the early 1900s but the original holotype was destroyed during WWII. Other examples have been found in Egypt and Tunisia, but the Kem Kem churns out bucketloads of Spino teeth and some claw and bone material.
Spinosaurus is thought to be the biggest carnosaur found so far. Estimates put the weight between 7 and 9 tonnes, and between 50 and 60 feet in length. It is related to the Baryonyx of England and Brazil's Irritator, has a long, crocodilian snout, simple, smooth teeth with slight vertical ridges and a large 'sail' on its back.
The skull and jaws show a long muzzle with raised nostrils - a little like crocodiles. It's thought Spinos may well have eaten fish as well as smaller dinosaurs and probably scavenging. More recent research has suggested that the shape of the extended vertebral bones that form the 'sail' is consistent with those in modern buffalo with large fatty humps on their backs. Spinos may have had more of a lump than a sail. Not quite so dashing.
Bit of a side note here. As with many dinosaur genera, there are arguments about many aspects - range in size, purpose of sail/hump, palaeoenvironment, etc. Recently it was realised that modelling of dinosaurs and creation of assemblages from articulation of bones etc left too little allowance for intervertebral discs. With a more realistic spacing of vertebra, most dinsoaurs may well have actually been much bigger than previously thought.
Spinosaurus was one of the stars of the Jurassic Park series, appearing in the third film to smash the T.rex about, and bite his face off. Bragging rights to the Spino.
Friday, 1 May 2009
Anyway - they are very interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, bones have been found dating between 95,000 years and 12-13,000 years. That's not very long ago, even within the human evolutionary timeframe. It's thought they lived alongside modern H. sapiens. Well, possibly in different caves.
Secondly, a number of scientists argue that they are not a distinct species. Some have said the solitary complete skull found is a bit of an anomoly, others saying the whole colony was a group of pinhead dwarf humans. More recent study has shown considerable differences between the hobbit skull and human microcephalic skulls, pointing towards the distinct species theory. Further research on the bones of the arms and wrists support this and would seem to provide conclusive evidence that the hobbits split from the hominid line earlier than H. sapiens.
Similarities to Australopithecus, a hominid that died out in Africa about 1.5 million years ago have led to suggestions that an ancestor of Australopithecus or Homo habilis left Africa earlier than it was previously thought. As with other species living on isolated islands, they remained separate and distinct from other species. The Out of Africa migration of modern humans is thought to have taken place between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago. By this time, clearly, hobbits had already been established in their Indonesian caves. The rapid spread of Homo sapiens into Europe and across the globe led to the disappearance of all other hominid species. (Something we said?) Seems like the hobbits lasted a bit longer than the rest.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
I was born profoundly lazy. Nothing can be done.
What can I do to motivate myself? Set goals? Reward myself with a caramel wafer? Stab the back of my hand with a fork? One of the forks in the shop is pretty sharp. That may work.
No. I have a sore hand, but no inclination to go into the basement for the boxes of fossils. Maybe I should start with small, manageable targets. I will make some coffee.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
The convention is taking place not far from the shop, but rocks are notoriously heavy. And I have a lot of them to lug about. Hopefully a good few less afterwards. Because it's a Saturday, I wouldn't have been in the shop, so I'm not paying any extra out in wages and it wasn't not expensive to pay for the table - so hopefully it'll work out pretty well. Even if it proves a bit of a washout, I have to think longer term. I could pick up a few new customers, so I'll be handing out cards and fliers left, right and centre.
I don't spend that much on advertising, though I get approached a lot. It's really difficult to know what's effective. Or at least cost-effective. Word-of-mouth has always been the most powerful marketing tool for Mr Wood's Fossils. I place a lot of emphasis on customer service in the hope that customers go away with a good impression, remember the shop and maybe tell a couple of friends. I'm looking forward to the weekend - at least to see what it's like to run a stall. Maybe it'll be something I could do a little more often.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
When people say you can't polish a turd, don't believe them.
Coprolites are fossil dung. The one above is from a turtle. Probably quite a big turtle. I get asked how you can tell which animal 'laid' it. It's not always possible, but at times a direct comparison can be with recent examples. Preferably not that recent. In other instances, clues can often be found in the stratigraphy. It's usually possible to piece together a reasonable understanding of the palaeoenvironment; where and how the animal was living. Also, sections can be made, allowing a look inside the jobby. Exciting work.
A site in Moab, Utah provides a great deal of this stuff, and very often you can see little cross sections of undigested plant material in the polished surface. Found amongst the coprolites are the occasional gastrolith, or gizzard stone. Like some animals today, many dinosaurs ingested pebbles to help them break down tough plants in their gut. I wouldn't suggest you eat a handful of gravel before your tea, but it was very helpful for some of the sauropods of the Jurassic.
Much of the plant material in these coprolites is preserved as a vibrant red jasper, and the most colourful stuff is graded out and used to make jewellery. A few years ago there was a bit of a Hollywood craze for wearing coprolite jewellery. Didn't really catch on here, unfortunately.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
I did see the story of a seismologist who had measured increased levels of radon gas emissions in the days preceding the earthquake. He was convinced something was coming, and felt his advice was going unheeded. He took to driving around the streets with a megaphone, trying to warn people to leave the area. It's a sad tale, but imagine what your reaction would be to that scene. Disbelief, at least. Concern for his sanity, possibly.
The truth is that it's an incredibly tricky business, seismology. Many influencing factors, unpredicability of timescales, and then the difficulty experienced by the frantic Italian in his van. Who will believe you? Err on the side of caution and you cost thousands of people time, money and inconvenience. And run the risk of crying wolf. Err on the side of negligence and the risks are considerably higher. Thankless task.
I read today that the Italians authorities are flying in dozens of clowns to go round the temporary camps 'entertaining' people. That's terrifying. You've lost your home and everything you own. You and your family are living in a tent, surrounded by hundreds of other shell-shocked families in tents. And then round the corner, through the rubble, comes a gang of twenty clowns.
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Currently in the middle of washing a load of Californian jade which had been lying in somebody's basement in Arizona for years. It's nice stuff, and I got a great deal on it.
Somewhere along the line, a few boxes got a bit of a soaking. Not a problem for most rocks, you'd think, but there are some which will have an adverse reaction.Will have to repack quickly...
Friday, 27 March 2009
All being well, they should be on the pavement outside the shop sometime on Tuesday. And then an hour or so later, inside the shop.
It's a busy few days for me, but I enjoy them. Unpacking all the stuff I bought in January and February that I've almost forgotten about. Working out prices, making new labels, and getting things on the shelves.
Monday, 23 March 2009
Mary Anning was, for a long time, an unsung heroine of palaeontology. She lived in early 19th Century Lyme Regis, Dorset, on England's fossil-rich South coast. Her parents were poor, and her father supplemented his income making furniture by collecting and sellng fossils. There was a small tourist trade in fossils at the time, and Mary and her brother took to the beaches to help their father.
The fact that seven of Mary's brothers and sisters did not live past early infancy allows some insight into the circumstances of the time, and Mary was only eleven when her father died, leaving the family in even more desparate circumstances.
While Mary would have been selling her early finds to tourists, the science of palaeontology was by now beginning to find its feet. Fossil enthusiasts began to seek out fossil hunters to quickly expand their collections and understanding of their importance. It wasn't long before Mary was supplying these budding palaeontologists with material and they began to provide her with a steadier income.
Mary made some very significant finds, including the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton, a plesiosaur and even a pterosaur. Her family recieved a welcome financial hand from one of her customers, who sold his collection to help support Mary's work. It wasn't until much later in life that she began to recievemore official recognition for her discoveries. She was awarded regular funding for her contributions to science and, just before her death in 1847, was granted honourary membership of the Geological Society. Honourary only, as she was a woman.
The famous tongue twister 'She sells sea shells...' is thought to be about her.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Ammonite fossils sometimes show a mother-of-pearl like layer where the aragonite of the original shell has not changed to calcite, as usually happens. Light reflecting from the thin layers of aragonite undergoes an interference which leads to a beautiful spectrum of colour display.
Ammonites from Majunga in Madagascar can show this effect and those of a South Dakota locality, and there are some Somerset ammonites which can display fine colour too, but by far the best examples come from Placenticeras ammonites in 70 million year old rocks in Alberta, Canada. Here the stone is called ammolite (among other names) and the better grades of ammolite show a fantastically intense, opal-like colour.
Colour ranges across the spectrum, but greens and reds are most common. The purply-blues are rare, and fetch a bit more money. The highest grade gems can be pretty expensive, but it is possible to get nice colour at a reasonable price. Complete ammonites can be found, though they are rare and can take hundreds of hours of painstaking preparation to reveal the colour fully. Needless to say, the ammonites cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Ammolite has been officially classified as a gemstone, though quite what that means I don't know. Nobody's officially classified me as anything. Something to do with grading? Marketing? What I do know is that it looks great. It's one of my favourite stones. I try not to take stones home, but with ammolite I find it very difficult to part with some pieces. I buy mine from a good friend, who collects, cuts and polishes it himself. Not many people are allowed to collect the material, and it's also very difficult to actually find it. Can be dangerous, too - the best stuff is found on the steep, scree covered banks of a torrential river, accessible only for a short period of the year. A large part of the formation is found on a Kainah tribal reservation, and permission to collect is controlled.
The Blackfeet consider the stone to help with the buffalo hunt and call it buffalo stone. There aren't many buffalo near where I live, but I may try it out on some cows. I won't actually hunt them, though. Maybe just sneak up on them.
I've been selling ammolite in the shop for a decade now, and people love it. It took me a while to get round to selling jewellery, but now it's a jewellery line that is memorably different and it's been doing well. This year I picked out a few pendants but also got a bunch of pieces that I will get made into pendants and rings. It takes a bit of time to get them done that way, but is worth doing.
Thought as it was Mothers Day this weekend, I'd pick a gem as a theme today...
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
'I don't think they should be allowed to take things from the Earth. It's like shells, isn't it?'
I can understand the conservational principles behind the thinking, but cannot agree with the sentiment. Firstly, there's a significant difference between the shell trade and fossils. Without knowing a great deal about the shell business I can't say what standard practice is, but there is at least the potential for dealers being pro-active - actually killing lots of cuddly little slime-lumps to sell their homes to somebody. Rather than just filling a bucket with shells from the beach after a high tide, for example. I don't know if this goes on or not and I don't want to be in any way accusatory, but my point is that with fossils, it can't. Nobody can go out with a shotgun, a flask of coffee and a couple of cheese and pickle sandwiches on a day's trilobite hunting. Beaten to the punch by hundreds of millions of years.
A common comment in the shop is 'Why aren't all these things in museums?'. I'm pretty sure I've addressed this issue in an earlier post. If I can be bothered, maybe I'll go and have a look later, and edit this. Would be a good exercise in posting a link, which I should get round to. (Stone sentinels - ooh, look, I could be bothered). Anyway, there's clearly a link with these lines of thinking. With one, an assumption of intrinsic scarcity leading to the feeling that everything should be locked away and looked after by somebody for the greater good. And with the other, perhaps, the feeling of collective ownership, or ownership by 'the planet' leading to a feeling of suspicion of those exploiting a common resource. Both 'hands off those fossils' lines of thinking, in different ways.
As I said, I have addressed the former point already, but one moment of tv annoyed me greatly. Let me vent for a second. Tony Robinson's Time Team archaeology program had a sideways dip into matters palaeontological a few years ago. Early in this programme, they stated that they knew very little about the subject, and less about the commercial side to the subject. Yet later on they were scathing and condemnatory about a little 'Mom and Pop' store they came across selling fragments of dinosaur bone and eggshell. They were horrified that anyone should be selling this precious and rare material, and were outraged that it wasn't all safely locked away in a museum somewhere. I don't think there would have been many museums that would have taken that stuff if they had offered to drop it on their doorstep. It's purely commercial material, of little or no scientific value. And they ought to have done a little research into that before writing off a whole industry like that.
On to the second 'pillaging the Earth' line. If fossils weren't collected then nobody would see them. Nobody would learn from them. Nobody would be able to appreciate their beauty. Those that are lying around on the surface may be seen by a few diligent beachcombers or desert wanderers, but would eventually be destroyed by the elements. Those buried within the rocks, the vast majority, would stay there, benefitting no-one, until the rock is eroded. However many fossils are found and collected (and sold), most will remain hidden from view.
One issue that I should probably raise here is the possibility that the Earth would 'feel' the loss of the stones. I mean as some sort of sentient being. Mother Earth. I've said before that I hold very strong atheist views, so this doesn't hold any water for me. Gaia Theory is a fascinating topic, and one I'll save for another post, but I would contend that it's a form of religion for scientists. Poor Mother Earth would also then presumably feel the loss of metal ores, oils and gases by that measure. In which case the loss of a few fossils here and there is small beer.