15,000 Year Old Agate Knife Found in Oregon

Orange Agate from Rimrock Draw Rockshelter Excavation - Bureau of Land Management Oregon held in hand.OPB Radio reported on the amazing archaeological discover of a knife carved from agate currently estimated from 15,000 years ago in Eastern Oregon, evidence of what could be the oldest human occupation west of the Rocky Mountains, shaking up many theories on North American human history.

Carved from clear orange agate, the stone knife has been described as a Swiss Army Knife of its day with a serrated point edge like a saw and a steep, flaked edge used to carve wood and scrape hides and cut meat from the bones of prey. Blood found on the stone has been tested and found to be Bison antiques, an ancient ancestor of the modern bison or buffalo in North America.

The agate knife was found by University of Oregon archaeological team led by Dr. Patrick O’Grady while excavating under a rock overhang by a dry stream where other evidence of an ancient human camp was also found. The evacuated area is now called Rimrock Draw Rockshelter.

According to the article from OPB:

In the fall of 2012, a seasonal excavator named Chuck Morelan struck a bit of luck…About 10 feet down, he discovered a thick layer of volcanic ash. A little further down, he found fragments of animal teeth, and the striking orange knife.

Thomas, who was working alongside Morelan, says the knife struck him as a little mysterious. The site is littered with obsidian, and yet it was carved out of agate, a rarity in the Oregon high desert.

“I’ve been here 20 years, and I’ve seen a lot of sights, and I’ve never seen this color of an agate in any site,” he said.

The mystery of the little tool deepened when Thomas sent a sample of the volcanic ash found just above it to an expert at Washington State University for radiocarbon dating. The result: the ash came from an eruption of Mt. St Helens between 15,200 and 16,400 years ago.

“My jaw dropped. We didn’t expect it to be that old,” Thomas said. The ash effectively dates the tool and the animal teeth, which were found about 8 inches below it.

Radiocarbon dating of artifacts in North and South America established the current understanding that the Clovis people were the first to arrive in North American roughly 13,000 years ago during the last ice age by crossing the Bering Strait between what is now known as Alaska and Russia. This new discovery may cause anthropologists to re-evaluate their understanding of early human occupation of North and South America.

According to a report on the discovery from the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon (PDF), the layer of ash under which these items were found at the 12-foot level underground came from volcanic ask from a Mt. St. Helens volcano eruption 15,800 years ago.

Paisley Caves in south-central Oregon was believed to be the oldest known residence in North America dating to over 14,000 years ago.

Thunder-Egg-Stravaganza is coming up!

On Saturday, April 4, come to to the museum for our thunderegg hunt! Find whole thundereggs and plastic eggs to redeem for prizes. We will have free thunderegg cutting all day so you can discover what lies inside your find! Additionally, come see a talk on Thundereggs of the Pacific Northwest at 11 AM or 1 PM, as well as our regular museum tour at 2 PM.


Event details:

Saturday, April 4, from 10 AM – 5 PM

$5 admission (children 4 and under are free)

We will cut up to two thundereggs per visitor. Please no outside eggs.

Free Admission for March Birthdays on Saturday, 3/7

This first Saturday in March is Birthstone Day, meaning admission is free for people born in the month of March!


       Aquamarine beryl from Pakistan

March babies, your birthstone is aquamarine. This lovely gemstone is one of several varieties of the mineral beryl. Iron gives aquamarine its distinctive sea-blue color. (Emerald, another well-known variety of beryl, is colored green by chromium.

Villarrica Volcano Eruption

Chile’s Villarrica volcano erupted recently with dramatic lightning strikes and lava shooting into the night sky causing approximately 3,000 people to evacuate the area, and others to rush to study the dramatic volcanic eruption. The eruption is predicted to last several days and possibly several weeks.

Villarrica is one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in Chile among more than 2,000 volcanoes in the Andes cordillera. About 90 volcanoes remain active.

Villarrica, Pucón, Cile  (AP Photo/Aton Chile)

Considered one of the most active volcanoes in the Andean Mountains, natives call the volcano Rucapillán which means “House of the Spirit.” Continue reading

Mt. Hood Rock Club Show

Mt. Hood Rock Club Show 2015 Flyer.The Mt. Hood Rock Club Show is Friday-Saturday, April 24-26, 2015, at the Kiever Memorial National Guard Armory on 10000 NE 33rd Drive, Portland, Oregon, west of PDX Airport. Admission is free, and each child attending receives a free rock.

Over 24 vendors selling rocks, minerals, fossils, jewelry, beads, and equipment are featured, along with many activities for adults and children especially children including a kids corner with games and door prizes. Special exhibits will include lapidary work and minerals from around the world and local discoveries.

This year, they will be tracking the schools the of the attending children. The school with the highest student attendance will win a selection of rocks and minerals for display in their school.

Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Club 57th Annual Rock and Mineral Show

Tualatin Valley Gem Club 57th Annual Rock and Mineral Show flyer.The Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Club will be hosting the 57th Annual Rock and Mineral Show on March 13-15, 2015, Friday – Sunday, at the Washington Country Fairplex in Hillsboro, Oregon, near the Hillsboro Airport.

The show features a wide range of rocks, minerals, gems, jewelry, fossils, dealers, and supplies, with exhibits, demonstrations, door prizes, and a kid’s corner. The rock show is open to families with general admission $1, children under 12 free with adult.

Rice Museum wins Educational Award at 2015 Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

The national organization Friends of Mineralogy awarded the Rice Museum with a top honors for “Best Educational Exhibit by an Institution” at the 2015 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show® (TGMS) for our display, “Lead Minerals.”

FM President awards Rice Museum Edcuational Case Award

Friends of Mineralogy President Alex Schauss presents Rice Museum Curator Leslie Moclock with the award for Best Educational Exhibit by at Institution during the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show Banquet February 14, 2015. (Photo by Al Leibetrau)

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show®, the World’s largest such show, draws an estimated 50,000 visitors each year. The show invites museums, private collectors, and clubs from around the world to create display cases with their best specimens related to the annual theme. The TGMS began as a club show housed in a local elementary school in 1954, and today is a premiere international event that gives visitors a chance to view specimens from some of the world’s finest mineral collections.

This year’s show theme was “Minerals of Western Europe.” Mineral science as we know it today has its roots in European scholarship and mining development, and this theme inspired many displays focused on historical collections and famous European localities.

The Rice Museum display combined superb mineral specimens from well-known localities with mineral science education. The display theme, minerals containing the element lead, was chosen to demonstrate how useful and beautiful lead minerals can be. The vibrant green pyromorphite, yellow mimetite, and lustrous red wulfenite on display contrast with the popular notion of lead as nothing but a dull metal. The display also discussed how the crystal structures in some lead minerals contribute to their crystal shapes, and the importance of lead ores and mining in ancient history.

Rice Museum Tucson Educational Case

Rice Museum exhibit case at the 2015 Tucson Gem & Mineral Show featuring lead minerals.

Tying in with the show theme, European specimens in the display included a green pyromorphite plate from Les Farges Mine, France (center); green and brown pyromorphite from Friedrichssegen Mine, Germany; green pyromorphite from Chaillac Mine, France; vitreous white anglesite from Monteponi Mine, Italy; and one of the world’s largest phosgenite crystals, also from Monteponi Mine, Italy.

Education is at the heart of all that we do at the Rice Museum, and we are thrilled to be recognized for our efforts at the 2015 TGMS.

Mystery Mineral Day, Saturday February 28, 2015

If you have any rock, mineral, fossil, gem, or meteorite that you have wanted identified, then you are in luck.  A panel of experts will be on hand on Saturday, February 28, 2015 from 10 AM to 2 PM to not only identify your stone, but tell you its history and other important facts about it. This event is free with regular admission.

Mystery Mineral Day 2015 Flier

Mystery Mineral Day at the Rice NW Museum, February 28, 2015 from 10 AM to 2 PM

30,000 Diamonds

A rare diamondiferous peridotite has been found in the Udachny Diamond Mine. The Russian mine is one of the 10 deepest open-pit mines on Earth. A chunk the size of a golf ball has geologists counting the micro-diamonds imbedded within the rock.

In addition to diamonds, the 10.5 g rock contains specks of red and green garnet and other minerals.

Prof Taylor and his colleagues examined it using a giant X-ray machine to study the diamonds and their relationships with associated materials.

They also beamed electrons at the materials inside the diamonds to study the chemicals trapped inside.

This created 2D and 3D images which revealed a relationship between minerals.

…The images also showed abnormal carbon isotopes for this type of rock, indicating it was originally formed as part of the crust of the Earth, withdrawn by tectonic shifts and transformed into the shimmery rock scientists see today.

Along with the 30,000 diamonds fused into the peridotite are red and green garnets making for a beautiful and unusual specimen.

screen shot of sci-news 30000 find

January 21 is #MuseumSelfie Day

Wednesday January 21 is an unofficial holiday, #MuseumSelfie Day. This event is a fun and lighthearted way to celebrate your favorite museum, which of course is the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals.

Rice NW Museum Director Julian Gray with USGS Volcanic Hazards poster

Rice Museum Executive Director Julian Gray selfie with USGS Geologic Hazards at Volcanoes poster. This is also a great example of a lava dome.

Visit the Rice NW Museum Wednesday and take a selfie with your favorite rock, fossil, gem, museum sign, exhibit case, or gallery. Post your pictures with #MuseumSelfie and follow @RiceNWMuseum and @MuseumSelfieDay. More instructions, suggestions, and ideas are on Cultural Themes.