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    Description

    GARGANTUAN AND STUPENDOUS PETRIFIED WOOD
    Araucarioxylon arizonicum
    Triassic, Norian-Carnian stage
    Chinle Formation, Arizona

    Petrified wood is amongst the most attractive of all fossil remains to be found across the globe, and the ancient Monkey Puzzle trees of eastern Arizona's Petrified Forest are rightly considered to be the most beautiful examples of this extraordinary preservation.

    Retrieved from just outside the National Park location, this is without doubt the largest and most spectacular slab of petrified wood ever to be offered to the public. In fact, there is no Museum who can boast of such a specimen. Measuring an immense 122 x 64 x 2½ inches, its face has been brought to a high polished finish to better display the astounding array of colors and patterns that give the specimens from this locality the name of "Rainbow Wood". Vertically sliced, it swirls with clouds of pastel and earthy shades; a riot of blues, reds, greeny-yellow, tan, orange, white, black and gray - a breath-taking natural canvas. Small patches sparkle with glittering little pockets of tiny quartz crystals; elsewhere the coloring follows the contours of the original growth structure of the tree. Weighing around 1 ton, it is backed with a thick layer of plywood and a robust metal frame ready for wall-hanging, although it is presented with a sturdy metal base and support for free-standing display. However one wishes to present it, it is truly one of the most spectacular, impressive and aesthetic examples of paleobotany one could ever hope to see.

    An ancient conifer tree whose nearest living relative is the Norfolk Island Pine, the A.arizonicum dates back to over 225 million years ago when Arizona was situated south of the equator as part of the Pangaea super continent. Out on the plains, stream banks were constantly being undermined by the surging river waters, and toppling these giant trees into monsoon floodwaters. Cataclysmic volcanic activity buried the tropical conifer pines and other hardwoods under massive layers of ash; entombing the wood and securing their place in natural history. Silica-bearing ground-water seeped into the fibers of the buried trees, replacing the organic material cell by cell whilst still preserving its fundamental structure, often right down to the microscopic level. The water might be loaded with minerals such as iron and manganese, limonite and hematite (both iron oxides), copper, cobalt or chromium; as it gradually evaporated, it deposited its mineral content to impart to the decomposing tree a spectacular array of colors directly derived from the presence of these minerals.

    These mighty trees once stood up to 200 feet tall and 6-8 feet in diameter, about 225 million years ago; today, however, they are part of the colorful badlands of the Chinle Formation (which also includes the famous "Painted Desert"). Although the National Park covers almost 100,000 acres - and the petrified deposits are found across a considerably wider area - the finest logs must today be unearthed from layers of bentonite clay, as material which has lain on the surface for any longer amounts of time tends to suffer damage during seasonal changes. The park straddles the border of Apache County and Navajo County, an area that was first settled around 8000 years ago. Today, deposits within the park itself are protected and may not be removed. So spectacular and evocative are these relics that they were declared the state fossil of Arizona. A geological survey in 1899 warned that the Petrified Forest was fast going the way of the buffalo - ie "virtual extinction" - and in 1906 it was designated a National Monument by Teddy Roosevelt.


    Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000.

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    June, 2011
    12th Sunday
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