Happy National Fossil Day!

Some body fossils I made into jewelry.

Since I periodically mention fossils, I’m borrowing from the National Parks Service list of FAQs and adding/abridging a little, complete set here: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossilday/faq.htm
Fossil FAQs:
What is a fossil?
Fossils are traces or remains of things that were once alive. Most of us immediately picture giant dinosaurs, but there are also microfossils-fossils that can’t be seen without the aid of a microscope. Bacteria and pollen can fossilize too! Fossils that are physical remains of an organism are called body fossils. Fossils from actions, like footprints, are called trace fossils.
How do fossils form?
Most of life dies and decays without a trace, but very rarely something can become fossilized. It helps to be buried quickly, before decay can set in. Once buried, groundwater seeps in, and minerals in the water can replace the body of bone or shell. Eventually the entire bone or shell could become stone. Mammoths and mastodons are recent fossils-frozen solid but still their original tissues.
How do we know the age of fossils?
There are two types of dating fossils-relative tells us what fossils are newer or older depending on where they’re found in layered deposits. Unless there’s been geologic upheaval, the lower down they are the older they are.
Absolute dating uses radioactive isotopes of elements to get an approximate age of a fossil or its surrounding rock. (For the dating of the earth itself, check out Clair Patterson’s investigations.)

Footprints from Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut. Thought to be from a type of dilophosaurus or close relative.

What is paleontology?
Paleontology is the branch of science that studies the history of life on earth.
Can I find a dinosaur bone in my backyard?
Maybe! It depends where you live-you need to live somewhere where the top layer of rock dates from the right age and were the right type of rock to fossilize. If you’re in the Rocky Mountains you’ll have better luck than southern New England, which is better for trace fossils.
Why study fossils?
Studying fossils helps us understand the evolution of life on earth and how species are related and have adapted to survive a dynamic planet. Fossils can act as ancient thermometers, giving us more information on ancient climates (Did you know 50 million years ago Wyoming had lakes with crocodiles and palm?), changing climates, and climate change’s effect on life
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La Peregrina

I’ve just not been able to write, but I’ve also been meaning to mention this pearl for ages, so I’ll use it to bid June adieu. (And in its current form, also to welcome in the month of rubies.) elizabeth-taylor-wearing-the-la-peregrina-necklace

In 2011 Christie’s auctioned off Elizabeth Taylor’s famous collection of jewelry. One piece was a natural saltwater pearl, diamond, ruby, and cultured pearl necklace designed by Cartier. So it belonged to a glamorous actress and is part of the story of a famous tempestuous romance. It’s an over the top gem encrusted necklace. Why care?

It’s as encrusted with history as it is with diamonds!

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Two gods, three heads-Happy New Year?

Janus or Juno?

January has a slightly contentious etymology. It’s traditionally said that it was named after the god Janus. Which would make sense, given that he’s the god of beginnings and endings.

But…there’s also evidence from farmer’s calendars that it might actually have been named after the goddess Juno, queen of the gods. (Others cite June as belonging to Juno…)

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Early coin from the Republic featuring Janus.

 

Of course, history and language being what they are, it gets even muddier when you factor in that the early Roman calendar began with March. There’s no definite answer to when this changed-possibly because they had one regular and one ritual calendar.

Whether or not he could lay claim to the first month, the first day of each month was sacred to Janus. Continue reading

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tut-ausstellung_ffm_2012_47_28711781955729November 4th is sometimes considered the anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.

 

Howard Carter’s began what he expected to be his last funded season excavating in the Vally of the Kings November 1rst. He started off by having his workers clear out the area where Rameses VI’s workmen had built their huts.

 

November 4th they found the rock cut steps that would lead to Tutankhamun’s tomb. They cleared out and found the door by the end of the 5th, but wouldn’t actually enter until his patron joined them some weeks later.

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Lend me your ears…

indian-cornYou see the wonderful multicolor corn everywhere in New England this time of year. I always want to take pictures, between the contrast in textures and all the colors they contain.

 

I also normally think of the geneticist Barbra McClintock and her discovery of jumping genes, which I’ve mentioned before.

 

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But I don’t actually pay much attention to the varieties of corn themselves.

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I’ll ask no thing of man or king…

To wrap up Earth Science Week it seemed appropriate to mention the pioneering geologist and professor, Florence Bascom.

 

When she got her doctorate in geology in 1893, Bascom was the first woman to obtain a doctorate from Johns Hopkins.

 

She was the second woman to have a PhD in geology in the United States. (The first was Mary Emilee Holmes, University of Michigan, 1888.*) She is also credited with being the first woman to be hired by the United States Geological Service, the first woman to present a scientific paper at the Geological Society of Washington, and the first female officer of the Geological Society of America.

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Split ammonite fossil earrings in 14K gold fill.

Split ammonite fossil earrings in 14K gold fill.

Since today is National Fossil DayTM, I wanted to do a bit of a show-and-tell. I love working with fossils in my jewelry, and a number of them have ended up on here, so I thought I’d do a brief overview of the ones I use most often

 

Fossils are fascinating. Just think for a minute about the intricacy of ancient life that they preserve. They’re like little time capsules.

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