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Massachusetts Earth Symbols

Massachusetts Earth SymbolsBabingtonite (left) and rhodonite (Babingtonite: By Rob Lavinsky, – CC BY-SA 3.0link.)

Massachusetts’ earth symbols are as overwhelming as its official foods. Let’s start with the official rock, gem, and mineral.

Earth Symbols
Mineral babingtonite 1971
Gem rhodonite 1979
Rock Roxbury puddingstone 1983
State Building Rock and Monument Stone granite 1983
Glacial Rock Rolling Rock 2009
Fossil † Dinosaur tracks (Eubrontes giganteus) 1980
Dinosaur † Podokesaurus holyokensis 2023
Soil Paxton 1991

Rhodonite’s official gem is rhodonite, which displays varying hues of pink.

The state mineral is babingtonite. First described in Norway in 1824, it is a very dark green to jet black translucent mineral. Massachusetts boasts the finest babingtonite in America.

The state rock is Roxbury puddingstone (below). It is often used as a building stone.

Massachusetts State RockRoxbury Conglomerate used in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry monument on the Gettysburg Battlefield, where St. Abraham Lincoln gave a famous speech before he unleashed the dogs of war on Native Americans.

We’re just getting warmed up, because Massachusetts’ earth symbols include three granite boulders.

We’ve already met Plymouth Rock. Rolling Rock is a giant boulder that a glacier deposited in the town of Fall River. Actually, the boulder was moved there long before Fall River was built. Today, it serves as Massachusetts’ official glacial rock.

Massachusetts State RockDighton Rock (left) and Rolling Rock

More mysterious is Dighton Rock, Massachusetts’ official explorer rock. Dighton Rock is notable because of the petroglyphs someone carved in it. No one knows who.

It wasn’t a recent practical joke, because a drawing of the petroglyphs was reportedly made by an English colonist in 1680. Who would go to the trouble of chiseling all those marks in a boulder nearly a hundred years before the United States was born? Even if it was a practical joke, the marks still had to be carved by someone.

Some have speculated that Vikings made the petroglyphs. However, let’s not forget the possibility that the marks could have been made by Native Americans.

And we’re still not finished, because Massachusetts also has an official building rock and monument stone. What else could it be but granite?

Fossil ˆ

Massachusetts State Fossil

Massachusetts’ state fossil, dinosaur tracks, is much younger than its granite bedrock. The tracks were given the scientific name Eubrontes giganteus, even though no one knows which dinosaur made them.

In 1802, a teenaged Pliny Moody made an exciting discovery on his family’s farm in South Hadley, Massachusetts. What Hadley had apparently found were giant bird tracks. According to legend, Moody took one of the tracks home and used it as a door stop.

Many Americans were Christians who believed the legend of Noah’s ark, which saved all living things from a great flood. According to the Bible, Noah sent a raven to serve as a messenger. A local doctor who saw Moody’s track thought it had been made by Noah’s raven.

In the 1830s the tracks came to the attention of one Professor Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College. Hitchcock knew the tracks weren’t made by a raven. However, he thought they were nevertheless made by birds that lived long ago.

A few decades later, people realized that the tracks had been made by creatures new to science: dinosaurs. More than a century later, Massachusetts and neighboring Connecticut both named the dinosaur track their state fossil.

But actual dinosaur fossils are very rare in New England. Without bones, scientists could only guess what kind of dinosaurs made the famous Connecticut Valley tracks. It was finally determined that Connecticut’s famous tracks were made by Dilophosaurus, which was adopted as the state dinosaur. In 2023, Bay Staters crowned Podokesaurus holyokensis their state dinosaur. The Latin name is a reminder that it was discovered near Mt. Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1910.

Sally, the fossil was lots in 1917 when the building that housed it burned down. No unequivocal Podokesaurus fossils have been found since.

Podokesaurus is believed to have been a small, swift predator similar to New Mexico’s official fossil, Coelophysis. The picture below indicates just how small. If Podokesaurus was still living in Massachusetts today, it could be adopted as the official state pet.

Soil ˆ

Massachusetts’ tenth official earth symbol might not seem very glamorous compared to giant boulders and dinosaurs. Yet Paxton soil may be the Bay State’s most important symbol.

The Paxton series was formed on glacial till (rocks crushed by glaciers). Paxton soils are well suited to cultivated crops and hay production where slopes are gentle and stones have been cleared.

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