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News Moqui Marbles

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Ram, Jun 30, 2020.

  1. Ram

    Ram

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    These Mysterious Marbles Found In Utah Are Surrounded By Ancient Myth
    The landscape of Southern Utah offers so many unique natural gems – from the towering cliffs of Zion National Park to the stunning Colorado River that spent millions of years carving canyons into the terrain. While you can easily see the effects of erosion when gazing at the hoodoos and spires of Bryce Canyon National Park, some geologic wonders will fit right in the palm of your hand. Have you ever run across moqui marbles?

    We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/nominate/
    Take a stroll through Utah's Zion National Park or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and you might see a strange geological phenomenon.
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    Werner R./Google
    In some places where Navajo sandstone covers the landscape, you'll find large collections of strange rock-like formations. They're called moqui marbles, and they're not actually rocks - they're small concretions.
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    Jiri Bouda/Google
    A concretion is defined by Dictionary.com as, "a rounded mass of mineral matter occurring in sandstone, clay, etc., often in concentric layers about a nucleus."

    If you break these little marbles open, you'll see a rust-colored interior. These little oddities were formed millions of years ago, and they're made of Navajo sandstone, covered in a shell of iron oxide.
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    Mostly Deserts/Wikimedia
    It's not entirely clear to geologists just how moqui marbles were formed. They're found all over the world, but in the U.S., you'll see them only in Utah and parts of Arizona. One theory is that some of the younger concretions were formed by the Colorado River as it started eroding through the Navajo sandstone of the area.
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    pspechtenhauser/flickr
    It's thought that perhaps the little balls slowly grew, one grain of sand at a time, when iron from the water coated the grains and created spheres that added layer upon layer, then connected with other little spheres to form a bigger ball.
    These concretions are similar to those found on Mars, and one theory is that tiny microbes helped the process of the formation from sandstone to marbles along. If that theory turns out to be true, it could support the idea that there was once life (however microscopic) on Mars.
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    pspechtenhauser/flickr
    Not all moqui marbles are round. They can be egg-shaped, flat, pipe-shaped, and even look like little miniature space saucers.
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    pspechtenhauser/flickr
    While the geology is fascinating, there's also a some ancient myth surrounding the moqui marbles. Native Americans believed that the marbles held special properties, and that if you held them while meditating, they would bring calm and peace to your soul.
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    pspechtenhauser/flickr

    The Hopi word "moqui" translates to "dear departed ones." According to Hopi legend, the spirits of loved ones came in the night and played with the moqui marbles, scattering them across the landscape and leaving them to be found in the morning. They're meant to let the living know that the departed are happy and at peace in the afterlife.
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    Werner R./Google
    If you find moqui marbles during your exploration of southern Utah, remember that removing any objects from national parks and monuments is illegal. Unless you're on private land (and have permission), leave these right where you find them.
    Are you ready to explore more of Utah’s amazing geologic wonders? Get an up-close view of Bryce Canyon’s spires on this hike, feel as though you’ve been transported to Mars when you visit this unbelievable place, and pay homage to Utah’s most well-known arch.

    You can also see tons of beautiful photos of Utah’s natural wonders when you join our Utah Nature Lovers Group. Check out the work of some of Utah’s talented photographers, and post your own photos, too!
    Jenny likes this.
  2. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    OK, I'm going to be a little picky, but only a little.

    Concretions are rocks.

    Definition of rock:

    A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter.

    Sometimes, sometimes not. Some are solid.

    The ones specifically known as moqui marbles are from the Navajo Sandstone, but concretions are found in lots of layers.

    Also, moqui marbles also exist in the Navajo Sandstone of Colorado and the Aztec Sandstone in Nevada, which basically the same thing or very similar to Navajo Sandstone. Utah and Arizona aren't the only places with Navajo Sandstone. It is even in Wyoming and Idaho (though known as Nugget Sandstone), though I have never seen moqui marbles in those states.

    Although the concretions in Navajo Sandstone are known as moqui marbles, the concretions in some other formations are still round, but much larger (such as in the sandstone lenses in the Mancos Shale). They aren't as in as large numbers though.

    They seem to grow around organic impurities.
    Jenny likes this.
  3. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    "One theory is that some of the younger concretions were formed by the Colorado River as it started eroding through the Navajo sandstone of the area."

    This may be a theory put forth by Young Earth Creationists, but is it totally detached from science (aka reality).

    Tom
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  4. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Some of the younger ones may have formed from groundwater from the Colorado River. This is one proposed theory on why the concretions are much younger around places like lower Escalante, Paria Plateau, and Horseshoe bend. The ones in places like Upper Escalante are much older. Some of the ones near the Colorado River channel or former channel are much younger. By younger though, I mean a few million years old vs 20-30 million years old.
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Where have you found dating on them?

    T
  6. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Originally I read a NASA article dating them since rocks similar to moqui marbles are known to exist on Mars. NASA was looking at the ages and forming of the moqui mables in Utah and noting similarities.

    I don't know where to find the NASA article anymore, but Canyontales summarizes parts of it:

    https://www.math.utah.edu/~sfolias/canyontales/tetia/?i=moquimarbles

    Unfortunately, the ages part is missing.

    As mentioned, I can't find the original NASA article anymore, but here is another source from Live Science that mentions the ages and the Colorado River:

    https://www.livescience.com/47936-how-moqui-marbles-form.html#:~:text=Cloaked%20in%20iron&text=Eons%20later%2C%20the%20moqui%20marbles,1.2%20miles%20(2%20kilometers)

    The results of the new study suggest that the first iron-oxide batch formed 20 million to 25 million years ago, and the next set was added 2 million to 3 million years ago. This younger group matches up with another major event: It's when the Colorado River started cutting through the Navajo Sandstone near the mouth of the Escalante River, which likely changed groundwater flow through the region. These younger marbles are mostly goethite instead of hematite, which may reflect the changing chemistry of the groundwater.
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