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Traces on the Appalachians: A Natural History of Serpentine in Eastern North America
     

Traces on the Appalachians: A Natural History of Serpentine in Eastern North America

by Kevin Dann
 

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There is an imaginary line, a green line made of rock called serpentine, that stretches along the eastern part of North America, from Georgia to Newfoundland. This line marks the ancient “geosuture”-the joining place of the North American and Eurasian continents during the geologic past. Kevin Dann’s Traces on the Appalachians is a natural and

Overview

There is an imaginary line, a green line made of rock called serpentine, that stretches along the eastern part of North America, from Georgia to Newfoundland. This line marks the ancient “geosuture”-the joining place of the North American and Eurasian continents during the geologic past. Kevin Dann’s Traces on the Appalachians is a natural and human history of serpentine.

                Geologists have pondered the serpentine for the story it tells of earth history. The gray-green serpentine outcroppings represent traces of the earth’s mantle, transported by sea-floor spreadings and thrust into the margins of the continent. They mark the collisions of tectonic plates and the birth of mountain chains. Botanists have puzzled over the strange plants that hopscotch their way along the dotted serpentine line, unable to live on more hospitable soil.

                To archaeologists, the artifacts carved from serpentine’s companion rock, soapstone or steatite, have yielded precious clues to the human past. Native Americans used soapstone for heating-stones, bowls, pipes, and oil lamps. Vikings gratefully recognized the soft stone in the New World and fashioned it into their own household objects. Today, we put it to use in pancake griddles, wood stoves, and chemistry lab sinks. Writing in the tradition of John McPhee, Kevin Dann brilliantly interweaves new and old science with tales of human endeavor, local history, and personal exploration. Any reader with a taste for natural history will want to join his search for serpentine.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ostensibly his subject is serpentine, a soft green rock, but out of the facts of geology and other earth sciences, naturalist Dann ( Twenty-Five Walks in New Jersey ) evokes a story of stone quarries and barren hillsides by wide rivers and of the people who study them. In this modest and understated work, Dann succeeds in making the complexities of his discipline accessible to lay persons through a lively narrative. Confining his search for the rock to the Appalachian region, he studies serpentine from its geological development to its use as tools by prehistoric North American Indians and its place in our environment todayboth in the wild and in many buildings. Along the way, Dann recounts the work of William Henry Holmes, William Fowler and countless other scientists. For each of many sites where serpentine exists, the author provides lists and descriptions of native plant species that will surely please botanists. Replete with information but never burdened by scholarly minutiae, Dann's mix of science and history will tempt amateur naturalists. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813513249
Publisher:
Rutgers University Press
Publication date:
11/28/1988
Pages:
159
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin T. Dann, the author of Twenty-Five Walks in New Jersey, writes on the environment and local history.

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