Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fossils and Petrifications

I was looking for something online today and accidentally found Memorial and Biographical History of the counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kern, California originally published in 1892. This section on "Fossils and Petrifications" is bizarre, especially the part about the "wonderful 'find' of a human petrifaction".
The most interesting of fossil discoveries was the exhumation of the mammoth and of man - "proof positive of the existence of both at the same time," and that "both occupied this country together with saurians the remains of all three being found in the same gravel deposit and stratum." The above is quoted from a history made of Fresno County in 1882. It is somewhat surprising to the writer that the broad claim should be made "proof positive" by one who has seen the wonderful conformations of California, and note the laws of nature as applied to other regions being here set aside. The strata are here more disturbed and thrown out of order than in any other country. The remains of the mastodon might have been thrown up from a burial place of centuries, and again submerged with that of man at a time when he, too, was destroyed by the mighty throes of Mother Nature. Finding the remains of mastodons, saurians and man in one common sepulcher proves nothing more than that they are there together; it does not even tend to prove they lived at the same period in the same locality. It is said that the first mastodon remains were found on the Fresno river, some distance above what is known as the adobe bottom. It measured twenty-two feet in length; the tusks were eleven feet, and curving upward; at the base they were five feet apart. The legs were short, but very heavy. The whole structure was complete, but with all the care and wisdom of the discoverers, they were unable to put the bones together so as to reproduce the animal. ...

As has already been stated in the geological summary of the valley, the Coast Range mountains contain numerous petrifactions. There was a wonderful "find" of a human petrifaction in Cantua canon near the Coast Range, in December, 1890. S. L. Packwood and I. N. Barrett of Fresno City were working in said canon on December 12, where Packwood owned a timber claim. They were seeking a suitable site to construct a dam to divert the waters of the canon upon a piece of land which was to be brought into cultivation, when Mr. Barrett discovered a human foot protruding from the bank of the stream. Both men viewed the object with amazement, and were the more surprised on feeling the foot and finding it to resemble stone. Their curiosity led them to unearth the remains, and soon they decided to take them to Fresno. The weight was about 500 pounds. Arriving at Fresno, the petrifaction attracted all, and several of the medical profession made a thorough examination, and took measurements of the petrifaction and pronounced it genuine and not of a "Cardiff" nature. The general appearance of the body led to the conclusion that he was a fine specimen of the Castilian race. He measured six feet four and one-half inches in height, foot eleven and one-half inches in length, length of arm sixteen and one-half inches, and length of forearm, twelve inches, and length of legs thirty-six inches. This is the most wonderful petrifaction found in the county and preserved.
If you want to see lots of fossils, take a tour of the Fairmead landfill, in Madera county. It is possibly the largest Pleistocene fossil deposit in the country, and pretty impressive to see. It looks like the Madera Mammoths website is still under construction.

The story of Jim Savage is for another day :) In the meantime, you can read about our local train robbers who hid in the foothills around Pinehust, Badger, Eshom, and Redwood Canyon. Their hideouts would make good but treacherous geocaches :) This picture will remind you that "crime does not pay" :)