The Gold and Emeralds of Ancient Egypt

Some 5,000 years ago, ancient Egypt civilization began to take shape in the Nile River’s floodplain. These natural geologists and artisans not only made massive structures. They also fashioned intricate jewelry to wear both here and in the afterworld.

They especially loved gold. It was plentiful in the eastern desert, and archaeologists have discovered many entombed treasures.

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Cleopatra’s emerald mines are also famous, but diggers have unearthed relatively little ancient Egyptian emerald jewelry.

Emeralds are abundant in Egypt, again, in the eastern desert, but it was mostly the Romans and Byzantines who mined them, not the pharaohs.

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So why are there gold and emeralds in the desert east of the Nile? It’s a very violent, action-packed tale, believe it or not.
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The Sun



Never we know but in sleet and in snow,

The place where the great fires are,

That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth

And the heart of the earth a star.

— G. K. Chesterton, “A Child of the Snows”

Well, it is pretty hot in the Earth’s core, but there is a real star in our skies every day.

Mankind’s names for it vary across the inhabited lands of Earth.

In Mandarin, it’s called Tàiyáng, and in Japanese Taiyō. In Arabic, they call this star Al-Shams, while in Swahili it is Jua.

In the West, ancient Romans called it Sol. The Germanic tribes who fought them called it a name that has come down to us in English as the Sun.

We take the Sun – a G-type main-sequence star – for granted.

What if it disappeared?

Yeah, bad news for you and me.

That video explores a little bit of the Sun-Earth connection, but what exactly is the Sun? What’s going to happen to it, and us, in the future?
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Luna Leopold


Luna Leopold doing field work in Idaho.  USGS

Luna Leopold doing field work in Idaho. USGS

Water shapes the desert landscape. This seems strange until you’ve stood in a New Mexico downpour, watching the impact of big raindrops on boulders and cliffs and getting out of the way as muddy floodwaters rage through the nearest arroyo.

Luna Leopold probably recognized the power and importance of water early on, during his childhood in Albquerque, New Mexico, early in the 20th century. As a meteorologist, engineer, and geologist, he went on to pioneer the scientific study of water’s effects on landscapes everywhere and became a champion of the movement to protect rivers and other bodies of water.
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Guest video: Iceland’s Laki Volcano 1783

Today, volcanic eruptions are spectator sports…whee!

The volume of lava poured out by Bardarbunga volcano’s ongoing eruption just surpassed that of all other effusive eruptions in Iceland since the eruption of Laki Volcano in 1783-1784. Bardarbunga is tiny in comparison to Laki, though.

It’s difficult for us to understand just how huge and how devastating that eruption was for Iceland and the rest of the world.

Fortunately, we aren’t facing the same risk today from Bardarbunga.

Here are two short videos the BBC posted from its Timewatch episode on Laki. Check out this source for more details on that eruption, too.


Etheldred Benett – “Lady Geologist”

In the late 18th and early 19th century, men like James Hutton and Sir William Hamilton were widely respected earth scientists.

At the same time women were also contributing to the founding of the science of geology, but quietly. Today we know very little about them. For instance, meet T. Etheldred Benett, 1776-1845 – fossil collector, stratigrapher, and scientific correspondent:

"It makes me look at least ten years older than I am."  - Etheldred Barnett, 1835.  Image source

“It makes me look at least ten years older than I am.” – Etheldred Benett, 1837. Image source

That’s it – that’s all we have for an image of her.

However, this “lady of great talent and indefatigable research,” as Gideon Mantell described her:

  • Left behind a huge collection of Cretaceous and Jurassic fossils from south Wiltshire in England, including the first mollusc fossils ever found that contained preserved bits of the original soft anatomy
  • Corresponded with some of the foremost naturalists of the day
  • Wrote a publication, A catalogue of the organic remains of the county of Wiltshire (1831), that remains a classic work today

In a time when women weren’t admitted to centers of higher learning, Tsar Nicholas I gave her an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Petersburg…but only because he thought her first name was that of a man.

Library of Congress

In the late 19th century, Walter Shirlaw painted the spirit of geology as a woman for the Library of Congress.

Ever the sharp commentator, Miss Benett (she never married) said of the incident (link added):
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