09/05/07 — Petrified tree found in Wayne, donated to Mount Olive College

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Petrified tree found in Wayne, donated to Mount Olive College

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 5, 2007 1:50 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A petrified tree dating back to the time of the dinosaurs has been donated to Mount Olive College.

The tree was discovered during an open-pit mining operation at Mar Mac Aggregates, LLC, when MOC student Daniel Dolderer was conducting his senior research project. It is believed to date back to the Cretaceous Period, roughly 100 million years ago.

"We generally find some type or form of petrified items on a weekly to bi-weekly basis,"Chad Strickland, general manager of Mar Mac Aggregates, said.

Dr. Daniel Gall, associate professor of environmental science at Mount Olive College, said when he saw the petrified tree, he knew it was special.

Gall said petrifaction of anything is usually very rare because most organic material decomposes due to bacterial decay.

"Petrifaction requires rapid burial to prevent decomposition," he said. "Therefore, this tree was probably buried during a flood." He speculated that ground water replaced the organic material, literally molecule by molecule with silicon dioxide, so the wood didn't turn to stone; instead, the tree's structure has been preserved and is now microcrystalline quartz.

"Little pieces are found on occasion but an intact, large section of tree like this is a very rare and is a special find," Gall said.

The petrified tree is in three pieces, each weighing more than 150 pounds. When the three sections are fitted back together the total length is an estimated seven-feet feet long and the circumference at the trunk's base is three feet.

It will soon be placed in the Bill Kemp Memorial Garden, near the gazebo on the college campus.