quartzite - pinkish Lower Cambrian quartzite - teaching hand specimen
This quartzite is from the Emigrant Pass Member of the Lower Cambrian Zabriskie Quartzite. Initially this was nearshore marine sediment that became a sandstone with compaction and lithification. Subsequent deeper burial and metamorphism produced a quartzite from that sandstone, now essentially mashed together quartz grains. The freshly broken surface of a quartzite looks grainy without individual grains being visible.
Quartzite is one of the harder metamorphic rocks. When the continental glacier, over a mile thick, planed off the rocks of what is now Wisconsin, it rode up and over the Baraboo Quartzite and was unable to remove it. Countless geology students have discovered that what the glacier could not remove is not easy for a budding geologist to remove either.
The Zabriskie Quartzite is Lower Cambrian in age. If a rock could be pretty, this is a pretty quartzite with its pinkish hue. In Emigrant Pass just east of Death Valley, Lower Cambrian shales produce fossils of trilobites within sight of the old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. You can still follow the trail on foot through the pass and down onto the desert surface to the east.
The field photo shows the outcrop. You would hardly expect to find that the maroon ridge at top right was this pink quartzite on a fresh surface. The rocks in the ravine are either limestone (gray) or quartzite (maroonish brown). To identify a rock, you need a fresh surface, one reason a geologist carries a hammer. Field assistant is Cucumber, who named herself by being cool as a cucumber in the van.
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