THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  



TAILINGS: News Items in Biblical Geology

"Dust to Dust"

     The phrase "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" comes not from the Bible but the "Order for the Burial of the Dead" in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. It evokes, however, many an expressive Biblical passage, beginning with Genesis 3:19:  ... for dust you are and to dust you will return (NIV).

     There's more to our human dust than you might expect.

     The human body, in common with other organisms, consists mostly of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen (roughly 18.5%, 65%, and 9.5%, respectively), with minor to trace amounts of 26 other elements. Carbon, therefore, accounts for most of our dust and ashes.

     Astrophysical research has determined that stardust, the solid grains of interstellar matter, consists principally of either silicon or carbon in the form of graphite or amorphous carbon. Further, a fraction of that carbon consists of microcrystalline diamond formed when shock waves from Type II supernovae recrystallize graphite or amorphous carbon grains during the death throes of giant stars. Interstellar carbon itself condenses from the ejecta of red giant stars during the late stages of their evolution into white dwarf stars, or from the solar winds of red giant stars as well as from Type II supernovae, novae, and the solar winds of a class of red giant stars known as population I Wolf-Rayet stars. Simply put, the ultimate source of terrestrial carbon is dust from the ashes of dead stars, and a fraction of that ash originated as "diamonds from the sky." "Diamonds are a girl's best friend" in a way the composer never suspected.

    The spacecraft Stardust returned to Earth in January, 2006 with a canister of comet dust trapped in aerogel during the spacecraft's 2004 encounter with Comet Wild-2. Researchers believe that the Wild-2 particles consist of residues that have survived unaltered since the origin of the Solar System. They are expected to yield fresh evidence about conditions and processes during the accretion of the planets. Early findings revealed at the Lunar & Planetary Conference in Houston, Texas in March, 2006, show about a quarter of comet dust grains contain minerals that crystallized at temperatures above 1000oC, including forsterite. Isotopic analyses should reveal whether they formed in the inner Solar System or the hot atmospheres of other, earlier stars.

      The manufacture of artificial diamond has progressed to the point of giving us a fresh twist on both the popular song and the burial service. The firm of LifeGem can (for a fee) extract the carbon from the cremated remains of your loved one and covert it under heat and pressure to crystalline diamond of gem quality. The process yields diamonds with yellow, pink, or blue tints in a minimum of 24 weeks, depending on your choice of color.


Annizzo, J. K. Wolf-Rayet Stars.

Kerridge, John F. 1990. Carbon in primitive meteorites. in Tarter, Jill C., Sherwood Chang, and Doug J. DeFrees, eds., 1990. Carbon in the Galaxy: Studies from Earth and Space. Moffett Field, CA: Ames Research Center; NASA CP-3061: 3-25.

Lewis, R. S., M. Tang, J. F. Wacker, E. Anders and E. Steele, 1987. Interstellar diamonds in meteorites. Nature; 326: 160-162.





The Heartless Stone: A journey through the world of diamonds, deceit, and desire: Tom Zoellner's new book relates how he followed diamonds from mine to market. Zoellner explored all aspects of the diamond industry in central and southern Africa, Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Japan, New York, and Russia. Between illegal mining, environmental damage, and human exploitation, Zoellner learned it's a cold-hearted industry.

The Heartless Stone, published 2006 by St. Martin's Press, hardcover, 286 p, $17.90. ISBN: 0312339690; ALibris ID: 8793860093.



Thomas E. Levy (University of California, San Diego) and Mohammed Najjar (Department of Antiquities of Jordan) planned in 1997 to apply radiocarbon-dating methods on a large scale at the Edomite site of Khirbet en-Nahas in southern Jordan. Field work began in 2002.

The site has been known since the 19th century as an Iron Age locus of copper mining and smelting. On the basis of relative chronology, Nelson Glueck dated its most important periods of activity to the reign of Solomon and shortly afterward. Subsequent worker disputed Glueck's conclusion. Levy and Najjar, however, have conducted intensive systematic surveys and radiometric analyses, and they conclude by concurring with Glueck. They established, moreover, that copper mining and smelting at Khirbet en-Nahas began as early as the 12th century BC and continued intermittently until the 8th or 7th centuries.

Levy and Najjar describe their project and its findings in "Edom and Copper: the emergence of ancient Israel's rival." Biblical Archeology Review: 32-4, 24-35, 70.





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