Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Monday, August 13, 2018

Rock, Mineral, and Fossil Adornments of the Roman Empire

Zachary Sepulveda, Blake Reher, Ben Elick, Jonathan Hair, Joshua Hair, Jack Shimon, Jenna Salvat, 
Ciena Higginbotham, Jacob Kania, and William Wray
Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club

It all started with a son of Mars. Legend has it the city of Rome was founded by Romulus, son of the Roman god of war who was abandoned as an infant and raised by wolves alongside his brother, Remus. After killing his brother and taking control, Romulus founded the city of Rome, which is named after him. He became the first king of Rome. But wasn’t Rome an empire? Well, before it was an empire – or even a republic – the city of Rome was ruled by kings for hundreds of years. Historians estimate that around 509 BCE this system of monarchy ended, and a republic was formed after a people’s revolt which was staged in outraged response to the tyrannical rule of Lucius Tarquinius Suberbus and in particular the actions of his son, who behaved badly toward a noblewoman without her consent. This sparked a rebellious fervor in the common people, who went on to rebel and form a republic, which literally means “property of the people.”

An example of Roman art style. Original watercolor © by Ciena Higginbotham
Once the great republic had been formed, Rome expanded from a city state to a true power. Rome conquered all of Italy and Sicily and defeated the Carthaginians of Tunisia in the Punic wars, which are famous for Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with war elephants in an effort to defeat Rome on its home turf. However, his efforts were in vain, because Carthage ultimately lost the war. The republic went on to conquer Southern Spain and defeat Macedonia, turning the once great empire of Phillip V into a Roman province. But, like in many governments throughout history and modern times, the republican system of government in Rome fell into corruption and disarray. The gap between the rich Patricians and poor Plebeians became significantly more pronounced and the wealthy oppressed the poor. Leaders who attempted to fix these problems were promptly assassinated. In 59 BCE a general known to us as Julius Caesar returned to Rome from conquering Gaul, modern day France. When he returned, his wealth and power exceeded anyone else in Rome, and that was disturbing to the current leaders, known as Consuls. They attempted to undermine Caesar’s power, but their efforts were thwarted, and Caesar defeated them in a bloody civil war. He declared himself dictator, a temporary position of absolute power in the Roman governmental practices. Less than a year later, Caesar was murdered by his friends and colleagues. This event caused another power struggle, which ended with Augustus taking over as the first Roman emperor.

The Roman Empire went on to conquer virtually all of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean and most of Europe. It stretched from Egypt to Scotland and was the biggest empire to ever exist in Europe, no other nation since has owned so much of the continent. For much of its history Rome had a solid, functioning economy and extremely formidable military. The empire was and still is renowned for its amazing art and architectural achievements. Later on, Rome adopted Christianity as its state religion in 325 CE, and shortly afterwards Rome began its decline. After hundreds of years of success, the empire became so fragmented that it split in two. While the eastern part of the empire went on to become the Byzantine Empire, the west imploded due to corruption, war, and a lack of communication. With that a great empire fell and a chapter in history closed.

During Rome’s height they were noted for their wealth and industry. This translated into a prestigious trade in jewelry and adornments of all kinds. Usually, skilled artisans were responsible for the crafting of these pieces of wearable art. Most Roman jewelry used gold as a base material which was then embellished by jewels such as pearls, emeralds, and turquoise. Because the Romans used gold as the cornerstone of their jewelry, they needed a lot of it. Since Central Italy is rather lacking in mineral resources, they sourced the bulk of their gold from provinces to the west, such as Iberia (Spain) and Gaul (France). They also received gold through trade with Africa and India. The basic techniques of jewel-crafting in Roman society, such as filigree (the practice of twisting tiny pieces of gold wire together and to form patterns) and granulation (the practice of molding tiny grains of gold onto a larger smooth piece) are still in use today. The goods produced were sold in markets and community gathering places referred to as forums. However, trade was not explicitly through markets, oftentimes the ruling class would commission special pieces from the best jewelers.

Since the dawn of time man has adorned himself with materials of rocks, minerals, fossils, and gems. The Romans were no different and show remarkable craftsmanship.

The bead shown above is made of amethyst, a variety of quartz. Amethyst was valued among the Romans, along with emerald and pearls, for bead making, and jewelry. Amethyst would be made into crude beads for necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Image © by S.W. Veatch.

Figure 2. The garnet ornament that is pictured above was fashioned into a bead that could be strung onto an elegant necklace worn by an ancient Roman citizen. This fiery-red pigmented garnet is most likely of the pyrope variety. The small hole in this bead could have been created using a manual drill press, a primitive instrument comprising a wooden rod tipped with mineral slab that is comparatively more durable than the material that is being bored into. The garnet was rounded into this spherical shape using a polishing stick or polishing mound, both methods involving the use of tougher mineral material to abrade the exterior of the garnet. Image © by S.W. Veatch.

Figure 3. This is a cylindrical bead made of granite circa 100 BC. These stone beads were traded throughout the Roman empire. Image © S.W. Veatch. 

Figure 4. This bead is made of solid gold and had more intricate work done. This bead would have been part of a necklace worn by a man or woman who was wealthy. Image © by S.W. Veatch.

Figure 5. This piece, made of silver, was worn by a Roman over 1,200 years ago. The Romans prized their silver mines. Image © S.W. Veatch.


Figure 6. This unusual piece of abalone shell came from a mollusk. It was ground down to a size that would fit on a necklace. Perhaps his piece of adornment was worn by a slave held by the Roman Empire. Image © by S.W. Veatch.


Figure 7. This carved piece of Lapis Lazuli reveals specs of pyrite. This gemstone was highly prized for its blue color and was mined in Afghanistan and then brought into Rome. Image © by William Wray.



Figure 8. This unusual ornament was fashioned from a fossil sea urchin. This was worn as a pendant by a slave or a Roman citizen of the lower-class. Image © by Blake Reher.


Figure 9. Carnelian is a type of quartz that is reddish orange in color.  The Romans cut and polished it to make jewelry but more interesting, they engraved gems for signet or seal rings. These gems were pressed into hot wax that sealed important documents or letters. Image © by Jack Shimon.


References Cited
Ancient Roman Jewelry: (2008). Retrieved May 19, 2015, from http://www.explore-italian-culture.com/ancient-roman-jewelry.html

Milani, M. (2011). Shopping in Ancient Rome. Retrieved May 19, 2015, from http://www.mariamilani.com/ancient_rome/ancient_rome_shopping.htm

Roman Jewelry. (2013). Retrieved May 19, 2015, from http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-clothing/roman-jewelry.htm

Roman Metallurgy. (2015). Retrieved May 19, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_metallurgy

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Pebble Pup Wins First Place at the Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair

By Steven Wade Veatch

Jenna Salvat, a member of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups won many awards at the Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair held February 24th at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  The Awards Presentation was held on Tuesday, February 27th in the R.F. Celeste Theater in the Cornerstone Arts Center on the campus of Colorado College. Jenna won the following awards:
1st Place Senior Division Physical Science
Grand Award Runner-Up Winner (This means that she almost won the entire fair)
Northrop Grumman Excellence in Science and Engineering Award
2018 Naval Science Award for Senior Division Projects
The UCCS Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Award
Rocky Mountain AFCEA Chapter 3rd Place Award
American Association of University Women Award
Society for Women Engineers Award
United States Air Force Certificate of Achievement

Jenna also won first place in Rocks and Minerals at the Science Olympiad competition held earlier this month. Jenna has been a pebble pup since 5th grade.  Jenna is in 11th grade at Coronado High School. She plans a career in the geosciences.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dinosaurs are Great

by Elkan Normandin

Dinosaurs are great.
Dinosaurs are awesome,
Dinosaurs are cool.
They even have scales.                           
What color are they?

A dinosaur watches an erupting volcano. 
Art by Elkan Normandin. 
































About the poet: Elkan Normandin is seven years old and attends Lake George Charter School in the mountains of Colorado.  He is in second grade.  Elkan enjoys participating in the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups and playing sports, flying remote control aircraft, and looking for rocks.

A Pebble Pup Geode

by
Jacob Kania

At our Pebble Pups meeting, we learned many things about geodes.  The geode I worked on was found in Dugway Utah.   I sawed it in half with a diamond tipped blade!  Inside was a cavity lined with the mineral quartz. The geode fluoresced green under an ultraviolet black light.  On the outside of the geode, an eye-shaped ridge occurred on the end of the broken geode.

View of a Dugway Geode. Quartz crystals line the cavity of the geode.
From the Jacob Kania collection. Image © by the author.


About the author: Jacob Kania is a member of the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups and is 8 years old. He attends the Lake George Charter School and is in 2nd grade.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Oh, Where is my Specimen?

by Blake Reher and his mother Susan Freeman

Blake ‘s concern

I am done.
I am tired of collecting all day, 
The specimen’s I think are OK.  
That my mom throws out anyway.

She throws them outside, and there they hide.

Mom’s comeback

Rocks originate outside, they have lived since the 
Western’s Interior Seaway’s rolling tides.  

My son’s devotion are insects embedded in time 
I get it – Fossils are identified as specimens.
Throw them out will bring bad omens.

As I was sorting out my son’s room 
Aka a sedimentary site
I missed the imprint of a very small trilobite
In our yard this beetle took flight.

Now – I need to make this right
I don’t want to fight.  

What we need to dispel this gloom
Is a serious plan to add more room.




The poets pause for a photo. Blake Reher is a 
student at Cheyenne Mountain High Scholl in Colorado Springs. 
He has been with the Pebble Pups for 5 years and now helps lead the 
program. His mother, Susan Reher, has helped with the
 program since Blake joined.  Susan Freeman in on the left 
and Blake Reher is on the right.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Mysterious Blue Orbs of K2 Granite


By
William Wray


K2 granite, with impressive splashes of blue circles or orbs on its surface, is a rock from a rarely visited site in the Himalayas.  The blue circles are azurite inside of white K2 granite rock. The white granite is fine-grained and composed of these minerals: quartz, feldspar, muscovite, and biotite. The azurite stained parts of the granite, making blue dots, which range from a couple of millimeters to about two centimeters.  Azurite has a relative hardness of 3.5-4 on the Mohs hardness scale, but assumes the hardness of the white granite because the azurite is only a stain.  The azurite formed after all the other minerals in the granite had cooled and hardened.  With a hand lens or microscope, azurite spheres reveal that the azurite appears along the edges of mineral grains, in tiny fractures in the granite, and in feldspar grains. 

Since azurite and white granite are rarely found together, people don’t think the blue orbs are azurite, and commonly think of it as simply a blue dye added to make the rock a novelty.  Scientific tests have not been made, so the jury is still out on the blue orbs in this interesting rock.  There is lively debate on mineral forums, including Mindat.org, about the nature of the blue orbs. 

An oval cabochon made from K2 Granite  found on K2, a mountain between Pakistan and China, revealing several bright blue azurite stains. The blue azurite stains formed after the granite cooled and hardened.  Photo © by the author. Specimen from the William Wray collection.


K2 granite is found near the base of K2, the mountain it is named after, in the Himalayas. K2, also called “Mount Goodwin Austen” is the second highest mountain in the world, rising up at 8,611 meters (28,253 feet).  K2 got its name from the British surveyor T.G. Montgomerie.  The “K” comes from the Karakoram mountain range and the “2” means that it is the second tallest peak recorded. 

A view of K2, summer 2006.  At 8,611 meters (28,253 ft) this mountain is ranked second largest in the world. Note the large valley glacier flowing out of the mountain.  Photo by Svy123. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0  license.

K2 granite is an excellent lapidary material. It cuts and tumbles well because of its high feldspar amount, and it can be easily shaped on a diamond wheel.  K2 is durable in jewelry because the feldspar has a hardness of 6.  K2 granite will scratch over time and is not suitable for bracelets or rings.  K2 granite is not very pricey, and excellent specimens can be bought for about $30 to $40 at gem shows and other venues.  K2 granite is a colorful specimen, and its bright blue azurite orbs will make it a nice addition to your collection of curiosities.

Meet the author:   William Wray is a fifth grader at Lake George Community Charter School.  He is a prolific reader with a love of all things nature related—from rocks and fossils to animals and plants. He attends the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups in Lake George, Colorado and participates there as an Earth Science Scholar. 


For Further Reading

K2 Granite: A white granite with azurite - AKA K2 Jasper. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://geology.com/gemstones/k2/

Nicholas Varnay and K2 — The Practical Gemologist. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.thepracticalgemologist.com/gemstones-2/2015/5/22/pick-of-the-week-nicholas-varnay-and-k2

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mammoth Site

By Gavin Seltz

Underground water dissolved limestone and shale
About 26,000 years ago.
The rock collapsed
A water-filled sink hole began to grow.

Young bull mammoths
Looking for an easy lunch
Drank the warm water
And the grass they did munch.

But the pond was too deep,
The bank was too slippery and steep.
The ice age mammals could not
Escape their fate: eternal sleep.

For thousands of years
Coarse sand and clay
Covered their bones,
Preserving them until the day

A bulldozer hit a tusk!
Scientists came and found the remains
Of 61 mammoths
In the South Dakota plains.


A young mammoth is attracted to a sink hole. Artwork by Gavin Seltz.


View of the Mammoth bones being excavated.


A large number of mammoths perished at the Mammoth Hot Springs, NE


A  mammoth skeleton.

About the author:
Gavin Seltz, a member of the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups, is 7  years old. He has been a member of this group for one year.



Welcome! This is the gateway to adventure and discovery

Through this blog pebble pups and junior members of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society can access their lessons, work on assignments and projects, and receive details about field trips in the Pikes Peak Region. This Internet program is also suitable for young people who are interested in Earth science but do not live near a rock club or gem and mineral society or for young people anywhere who want a deeper dive into these topics. The only requirement is that all participants must be members of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and must fill out the CSMS membership form (under important websites) and send their registration and membership fee in. Steven Veatch is the senior instructor and will need an email from you with your name, address, phone number, and permission from your parents to participate in this program.