Focused on Mississippi: Carved in Stone

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WARREN COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – The land in Mississippi has been here a lot longer than people have been. To find the history of it, you have to dig about a hundred feet deeper.

A gravel pit in the bluffs along the Warren-Hinds County line shows where the Mississippi River was about 700,000 years ago.

“The river is now about 15 miles west of here and about 200 feet lower. So the river has cut down and moved west over time,” explained James Starnes, a geologist.

Starnes works with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. He has been studying the exposed river bed in west Mississippi for a while. The type of rock can be matched to bedrock shelfs, where they were broken from during the Ice Age by glaciers in the Ohio Valley, the plains states or Canada. A few of them have a tell-tale sign that they have been carried at some point in their journey by glaciers.

“We know that because studying the rocks, we find things like glacially fascinated stones. These are stones that were drug along the base of the ice, and they have nice little flat surfaces with scratches on them that only can come from ice,” said Starnes.

You’d think there’s nothing new with rocks, but Starnes and his crew have realized something. They’ve found petrified wood in the gravel pit that has been glacially faceted.

“It was always assumed that the petrified wood was the same age as the gravel deposits here. They are fairly old, and so you’d imagine in river deposits you’d end up with petrified wood,” stated Starnes.

If the wood was already a rock when it got to Mississippi, then it’s closer to the age of the gravel itself and not the age of the gravel deposit of rocks.

“So, that thing had to have been petrified long before it was carried within that glacier.”

What does this all mean? Even knowledge carved in stone is open to reinterpretation. They have recovered glacier ice-deposited boulders from that rock quarry. A few of them are on display out in front of the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. 

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