Accretionary Wedge – Beautiful Countertops

As someone who focuses on building stone and the use of stone in non-natural situations, it was a pleasure to read about Ian’s Accretionary Wedge #42. He asks “Have you seen a great countertop out there?  Sure, everyone says it’s “granite”, but you know better.  Take a picture, post it on your own blog or send it to me and I’ll post it for you.  Do you think you know what it is or how it was formed?  Feel free to include your own interpretation and I’m sure others will enjoy joining in the discussion.”

He raises a good point that in the countertop trade rocks seem to come in just two varieties: marble and granite. If it looks granular or granitic, it is a granite. If it looks marbled or veiny, it is a marble. One of the few places that I have seen another type of stone mentioned was in Bloomington, Indiana, where I saw an add for apartments that included limestone countertops. This makes sense because of the location, in the heart of the Indiana stone belt.

Trying to choose one favorite countertop or other human-manipulated stone is a challenge. I have written about some of my favorites, the wonderful treestump gravestones of Indiana, but thought I would turn to another rather unusual stone structure. I have never seen it but have read about it. It is William Buckland’s Coprolite Table on display at the Lyme Regis Museum. That site contains a link to nifty, in-depth article about the table. Here’s a quick summary.

Both photographs from Richard Bull’s fine paper on the table.

Reverend William Buckland was an eccentric Oxford geologist who coined the term “coprolite,” meaning “dung-stone,” in 1829. The table was made from coprolites most likely collected at Wardie, Edinburgh, in 1834. It was on display in his drawing rooms he had a two homes. Making up the surface of the table are “64 sectioned oval coprolitic nodules,” which closely resemble beetles but are in fact fish poops. They come from a 330-million-year old shale deposited in a freshwater lake.

In 1836, Buckland wrote about the coprolites in his famous Bridgewater Treatise:

Mr W C Trevelyan recognised Coprolites in the centre of nodules of clay ironstone, that he found in a low cliff composed of shale, belonging to the coal formation at Newhaven, near Leith. I visited the spot, with this gentleman and Lord Greenock, in September 1834 and found these nodules stewed so thickly upon the shore, that a few minutes allowed me to collect more specimens than I could carry. Many of these contained a fossil fish, or a fragment of a plant, but the greater number had at their nucleus, a Coprolite, exhibiting an internal spiral structure: they were probably derived from voracious fishes, whose bones are found in the same stratum. These nodules take a beautiful polish, and have been applied by the lapidaries of Edinburgh to make tables, letter presses, and ladies ornaments under the name of Beetle stones from their supposed insect origin.

The Lyme Regis Museum acquired the table in 1928 as a gift from Buckland’s grandson.

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