Archive for March 13th, 2017

Team Cincinnati heads home ahead of the storm (via Serpent Mound)

March 13th, 2017

Wooster, Ohio — Matthew, Mark and Luke (if only we had a John!) left the field a day early, hightailing it from Maysville, Kentucky, to Wooster today before a large storm system brought snow, ice and freezing rain (delightfully called a “wintry mix”). We made a couple of stops in the Whitewater Formation near West Union, Ohio, but did not collect because we couldn’t be sure of the stratigraphic context of loose specimens. On the way back north we visited the Serpent Mound National Historic Landmark near Peebles, Ohio. Matt and Luke are shown above freezing on the observation tower early in the morning. Not surprisingly, we had the place to ourselves.

Luke and Matt at the state marker for Serpent Mound.

There is no vantage on the ground from which you can see the entire serpent effigy mound. This is the view from the tower looking across the body towards the head.

Above is the coiled tail. There is considerable debate about when this elaborate mound was constructed. Some radiocarbon dating places it at around 300 BCE, therefore built by the Adena people. Other dating indicates it was made about 1070 CE by the Fort Ancient culture. The site is on an ancient (very ancient — Permian!) meteorite impact crater, an astrobleme. No evidence of this structure is directly visible at the site, but a geological survey of the bedrock shows incredible disruption. The late Dr. Frank Koucky, a geology professor at The College of Wooster, did considerable research on what was then known as the Serpent Mound Cryptoexplosion Structure. I had many field trips here with him as a student.

This is the storm we escaped late today. Our field areas are essentially in the pink wintry mix belt. We would have ended the trip early in any case, though, because Matt and Luke were such efficient field paleontologists that they filled all our available boxes with fossils (see below) and we visited all the critical sites we needed. Luke now drives to his home in New Jersey, and Matt drives home to California. Their labwork will begin when they return to campus from Spring Break. More details on their projects and discoveries then!

Team Cincinnati’s fossils ready to be unpacked, washed, sorted and studied.