June 24, 2014
Grinding Away At History Using ‘Forensic’ Paleontology And Archeology
The Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) announces an unusual paper in their journal PALAIOS that combines ‘forensic’ paleontology and archeology to identify origins of the millstones commonly used in the 1800’s. While all millstones were used similarly, millstones quarried in France were more highly valued than similar stones quarried in Ohio, USA.
One of the key features useful to millers was the porosity of the rock; where fossils left empty cavities. In 1795 famous inventor and millwright, Oliver Evans, exclaimed that pores, “larger in diameter than the length of a grain of wheat” were not desirable. Based on the fossil assemblages the authors suspect the fossil assemblages from the Ohio buhrstone may have made these millstones less effective for milling, but that this claim would require further investigation.
Chert has been used for tool making throughout human history and it is the hope of the authors that these non-destructive techniques can be used to study the origins of other artifacts.