basalt rocks


old man of hoy ▴ hoy, orkney, scotland

the ‘old man’ is a 449 ft red sandstone sea stack created by erosion of the surrounding cliffside. it is not more than a few hundred years old and will collapse sometime in the foreseeable future.


Pillow lava erupting underwater on the Juan de Fuca ridge, combined with a shot of pillow lava exposed at the surface in the Oman Ophiolite.


Zorats Karer is a prehistoric archaeological site in Armenia. It contains a total of 223 stones, including burial cists, standing stones, menhirs, and stone circles. Primarily erected from basalt, they range in height and weight, some as tall as 3 meters and weighing up to 10 tons. Given their age, almost all are covered in moss and lichens, and have been severely eroded.

Sometimes referred to as the “Armenian Stonehenge,” it literally translates from modern Armenian in English as “Army Stones,” but even this translation lacks eloquence, if not also accuracy. Zorats Karer goes by many alternative names, one of which being Carahunge, derived from a nearby ancient village called Carunge. Carahunge is a name derived of 2 Armenian words: Kar, meaning ‘stone,’ and hunge (or hoonch) meaning ‘sound.’ Thus Zorats Karer could be more accurately called “Speaking Stones.” This translation in part comes from the fact that on windy days, whistling sounds are heard coming from the stones, as 80 of the stones have holes bored through them at various angles.

Russian and Armenian archaeoastronomers have suggested the stones were used for astronomical observations, namely because of how the holes align with certain phenomenon. For example: 17 of the stones have been associated with the sunrises and sunsets at various solstices and equinoxes, and 14 with lunar phases. But these findings are conjectural at best, as there can be no certainty that the wholes are even prehistoric in origin, and part of the original construction.

“Basalt appears frequently in [Pablo Neruda’s] writing. It’s a prolific mineral not only on Earth, but also on the moon. Neruda’s geological knowledge included the contemporary understanding that the moon was formed when it broke away from Earth, leaving behind the great scar we call the Pacific Ocean–peaceful ocean. This moon daughter had remained in orbit around Earth since that first violent upheaval and leaving. But the moon is seen as peaceful; the largest darkness of the moon is called the Sea of Tranquility. When seen through a scope, the color is a misty blue of basalt.”

Linda Hogan, from “The Rocks Took Charge,” Ecotone (Spring/Summer 2017)

the Russians and the Moon

(as told by my astronomy prof, and I don’t bother to fact check because it’s too fucking great). My people are assholes and I am so proud. 

so. the Moon has seas, those splashes of the darker basalt rock. and as we had no problems seeing them, they all have nice sounding Latin names, Sea of Tranquility, Ocean of Cries, etc. 

the far side of the Moon, however, we haven’t seen much of. and the general consensus of the International Astronomical Union was that if someone were to fly over, take pictures and discover another sea, it has to be named after a state of mind, following the pattern.

and so it happened, that in 1959 a Soviet probe was the first one to fly over, take pictures and discover exactly one sea on the far side. and what do they do? they name it Mare fucking Moscoviense. the Sea of Moscow. (and all the possible landmarks - after Soviet cosmonauts). 

this is the closest one can get to drawing a dick among the stars in real life.

of course, there is a scandal. the IAU gets together for a yearly conference in Paris or wherenot and tries to figure out how to live on. 

and their solution is the most elegant ‘now go fuck yourself with that dick’ I ever came across.

they decided to acknowledge Moscow as a state of mind.

so if you were ever looking for a scientific justification to say “I feel so moscow” you now have it. 


Rujm el-Hiri, Israel

Rujm el-Hiri is an ancient megalithic monument, consisting of concentric circles of stone with a tumulus at its center. It is located in the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights, some 9.9 miles (16 km) east of the coast of the Sea of Galilee, in the middle of a large plateau covered with hundreds of dolmen. Rujm el-Hiri means “stone heap of the wild cat” in Arabic. In Hebrew the structure is named Gilgal Refaim, which means the “wheel of Refaim.” The Refaim were an ancient race of giants, mentioned in the Bible. The word “refaim” in modern Hebrew also means “ghosts” or “spirits.”

Made up of more than 42,000 basalt rocks arranged in concentric circles, it has a mound 15 feet (4.6 m) tall at its center. Some circles are complete, others incomplete. The outermost wall is 520 feet (160 m) in diameter and 8 feet (2.4 m) high. The establishment of the site, and other nearby ancient settlements, is dated by archaeologists to the Early Bronze Age II period (3000–2700 BC).

Since excavations have yielded very few material remains, Israeli archeologists theorize that the site was not a defensive position or a residential quarter but most likely a ritual center, possibly linked to the cult of the dead. However, there is no consensus regarding its function, as no similar structure has been found in the Near East.

The Palermo Stone

The Palermo Stone is actually two stones belonging to a series of seven stone fragments from a broken stele once known as the Royal Annals of The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. The former stele contained a list of Egyptian kings from the First Dynasty through to the Fifth Dynasty and noted significant events during each King’s rule.

The 7 stones are divided amongst several museums between Egypt, England, and Italy and all 7 are colloquially referred to as “The Palermo Stone,” after one of the more important fragments was analyzed; fragments that were held in the Antonio Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum in Palermo, Italy.

Description and Depiction

Analysis of the stone reveals it is likely basalt, given its density, its colour, and the basic appearance of the carvings on the stone itself. The original stele itself is estimated to have been about 60 cm high and 2 meters wide, which are somewhat strange dimensions for a stele as usual the aspect ratio is reversed in that steles are typically taller than they are wide.

The stone itself has carved onto it hieroglyphic text running right to left on both the front and back of the fragment. In a mere 6 lines the stone records a series of kings across the first to fifth dynasties, the years of their rule, some of their names, and even the means by which they came to power where appropriate. Interestingly it also includes information on how much the Nile flooded in a given year, festival information, and details on everything from taxes to warfare to architecture.

Discovery and Importance

Of the 7 fragments, not one was discovered with any archaeological context, which is to say none were discovered on archaeological digs. Rather, all of the stones were purchased from antiquities markets and auctions, or directly from private collectors. And more interesting still is that it was only over the course of a mere 25 years, that the 3 aforementioned museums in Italy, England, and Egypt bought up the stones from these sources.

Further confusing things is that despite being part of the same stele, most of the fragments were found no where near one another. One, for example, is cited as having come from Memphis, while another from Middle Egypt.

In any case, the Palermo stone(s) are the oldest historical texts that have survived from Ancient Egypt and are a pivotal source of information on the Old Kingdom in Egyptian studies, providing invaluable data such as names that were never otherwise recorded. Moreover, it’s currently believed that the ancient historian Manetho may have used the intact stele to write his book on the history of Egypt in the 3rd century BCE (titled Aegyptiaca), and his book corresponds to some of the excerpts we can gather from the fragments.


As with so many ancient finds, there is controversy surrounding the fragments. There are questions of whether or not they are genuine, for one. For two, some believe that the fragments did not all come from the same stele, but rather different copies of the original stele. Some go as far to say the fragments are all later copies or replicas of an “original Royal Annals stele” that was destroyed and had to be reconstructed by memory. But these questions of validity are as difficult to legitimize as the questions of authenticity, and must merely sit in the back of our minds as we look to these stones for information on the Old Dynasties of Egypt.

Here I inscribe a stone

There is a town in the South of Brazil, atop mountains once volcanoes within which an ancient god-giant lies buried. Near it, Tibetan Buddhist monks built their first Brazilian temple, arguing that the land itself was magical upon its purchase with cash.

And indeed it has been the setting for miracles that changed the course of lives. The witnessing of spirits, the pure power in the air which makes even the simplest of magical operations be remarkable. A day prior to this ritual, by the same banks I would still visit, a white horse appeared from the woods to bear witness to my wife’s family casting of her mother’s ashes. Here, I travelled to bring gifts gained since the last visit, and to introduce a companion to this land where significant strides were made.

I stroll to a high point by the shoreline of an artificial lake, allowing me to oversee it almost entirely. The sun cuts through the clouds as I sit down on a flat basalt rock conspicuously marked by three adjoined bird bones. I chant the call of the Red Dragon and use the secret word of the house, and as it cuts crisply and painfully through my body, in another breath I chant the songs of a different tradition naming those who came before me. A dark figure inhumanly measuring up to the size of a tall tree appears at the other side of the shore and it watches what I do. It feels as if my field of vision sees a much smaller version of everything in front of me and gravity ceases to exist for a moment.

I tell all to heed me and declare I will return to fulfil my intent in a day’s time. I stumble back to the cabin where I’m staying with some difficulty. The next day, I walk to a nearby spot mostly covered by sparse bushes, and here I inscribe a stone with the shield of Bones. I trace a spiral with a stick and place it at the centre as I chant songs in his name. My breath feels like fire as the Lady of Catacombs manifests. I sense her awe as I look around with her sharing my eyes.

Under the stone, I place a token for binding the target of a ritual which began at the opposite side of the planet and now spans three places of power in three different countries. As the wind picks up and the temperature drops, the stars become visible and a sense of terror takes over, a glimpse at the possibility of losing oneself in the ruse of those who would have me remain blind to their subterfuge, now dispelled by the mere gaze of stronger, more virtuous allies. I request what I need and leave other tokens so that my spirits can return here on their own.

I walk back as I remember the words of one other giant, that this is all yet so poorly understood, yet there is comfort in the thought. A crisis was, after all, averted.


Silicified magnesian limestone of the Silkstone formation in Ipswich dates from the Eocene (56-33.9MA), formed from carbonates in freshwater lakes. It is still quarried for agricultural dolomite in the region, with occurrences of hard, dense chert throughout some outcrops.Microcrystals of silica (SiO2) grow within the original carbonate sediments that eventually become limestone. Dissolved silica is also transported to the site by groundwater movement. Silica nodules and concretions grow from microcrystals and, if numerous enough, can enlarge and merge with each other to form nearly continuous layers of chert within the carbonate sediments. Dolomite from the quarry picture here also contains microscopic palygorskite, a magnesium aluminium phyllosilicate  (Mg,Al)2Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O). The palygorskite diminishes the quality of the dolomite, but can be a commodity in the right abundance with the right extraction/production technology. Interbedded basalts are recorded within the Silkstone formation. Geological records from over 50 years ago record a basaltic dyke in the vicinity of the quarry pictured here, but no accounts of basaltic rocks on the property are known. However, I recognised some rocks that could only be evidence very weathered and degraded vesicular basalt. The basaltic lava may also have contributed to the mobilisation and transport of dissolved silica, influencing the formation of the chert. 

(See also previous post, Oct 2014: