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. 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. 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. 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. 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. pspechtenhauser/flickr Not all moqui marbles are round. They can be egg-shaped, flat, pipe-shaped, and even look like little miniature space saucers. 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. 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. 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!