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Whetstone Gravestones

David Schoonmaker

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Whetstones, rocks formed on silty tidal flats, possess distinctive and minute layering. Geologists can often identify the sources of these tidal rhythmites, so called because their coupled layers reflect diurnal tidal changes, with great precision. Erik Kvale, with the Indiana Geological Survey, has exploited that quality to trace Orange County, Indiana Hindostan whetstone to locations throughout southern Indiana and into southeastern Illinois—so far. Rather than the familiar tool-sharpening whetstones, however, Kvale searches for gravestones. Not only may the production between 1820 and 1860 of Indiana whetstone for tombstones have exceeded that for sharpening stones, but tombstones also persist. Slabs of Hindostan whetstone were transported by barge as far as New Orleans, and Kvale would like to find as many examples as possible. Working with geologist Richard Powell and archaeologist Michael McNerney, he hopes to map 19th-century whetstone commerce. If you find a candidate, contact Kvale at Indiana University, Indiana Geological Survey, 611 N. Walnut Grove, Bloomington, IN 47405. Internet: kvalee@indiana.edu.—David Schoonmaker


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