Stone of Kings: In Search of The Lost Jade of The Maya

By Gerard Helferich

A publication completely timed for the re-setting of the Maya calendar in 2012.... half heritage, well known technology, armchair shuttle, and real-life treasure hunt, this can be the tale of pre-Columbian jade—the priceless stone respected by way of old Aztecs, Incans, and Maya—and the scientists, creditors, explorers and marketers who've been trying to find the legendary jade mines for century.

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Beginning as a gap within the earth, the volcano rose fifty ft within the first week and greater than 11 hundred ft over the subsequent 12 months, swallowing villages in black lava. The eruption didn’t hand over until eventually 1952, or even after that, Foshag persisted to review the volcano, hiring locals to take distinctive readings of its job. Matthew Stirling, Foshag’s crosstown colleague on the nationwide Geographic Society, could name on him for mineralogical analyses of items he’d exposed on digs, and out of that publicity and his personal wide paintings in Mexico, Foshag constructed a interest approximately pre-Columbian peoples. in addition to his mineral specimens, he’d carry again archaeological artifacts so as to add to the Smithsonian’s assortment. And his curiosity used to be specifically prepared within the nexus the place geology met archaeology—in a be aware, jade. In 1949, the Guatemalan Instituto de Antropología e Historia commissioned him to do a mineralogical survey of pre-Columbian jades, which was once released in 1954. within the monograph, Foshag recapped the background of the stone, from its old carving in China, to a few of the names the Aztecs gave it, to the thoughts that the pre-Hispanic carvers had used to paintings it. As you’d anticipate from a person of his education, Foshag additionally summarized every thing identified at the geology of jadeite. The mineral is a silicate, which means that every molecule turns into a silicate ion—an atom of silicon bonded to 4 of oxygen. Silicon is one of the so much ample components in the world, and silicates make up the vast majority of the planet’s crust. the commonest silicate—and the commonest mineral within the world—is quartz, which, even though no longer as dense as jadeite, is at the very least as challenging; a few of quartz’s coloured varieties, resembling amethyst, also are used as gems. All silicate ions are pyramid formed, with 4 triangular faces (including the base), yet they arrive in lots of varied kinds, in accordance with how the person ions are joined jointly. Quartz is a tectosilicate, this means that its ions bond in a constitution reminiscent of the skeleton of a skyscraper. different silicates shape earrings, sheets, and hourglasses; garnet and topaz are island silicates, which means their ions don’t bond in any respect. In jadeite, the silicate ions subscribe to jointly in lengthy chains. along with silicon and oxygen, the molecule comprises sodium and aluminum, yielding a chemical formulation of NaAlSi2O6. As Foshag mentioned, jadeite isn't really frequently present in its natural shape yet frequently contains different minerals reminiscent of diopside and acmite. and plenty of minerals and rocks resemble it—actinolite, albite, beryl, chlorite, glaucophane, jasper, metadiorite, amazon stone, muscovite, soapstone, turquoise, and a fellow silicate referred to as serpentine. This final was once of specific curiosity to Foshag. Like jadeite, serpentine is located in quite a lot of colours, from black to yellow to eco-friendly, notwithstanding it isn’t approximately as not easy as jadeite, measuring simply 2. five to five. zero at the Mohs scale (as against jadeite’s 6. five to 7. 0). within the paper, Foshag additionally reviewed a few tantalizing discoveries of historical workshops the place jade had as soon as been shaped into goods corresponding to beads, pendants, ear adorns, and mosaics.

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