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Worlds Before AdamThe Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform$
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Martin J. S. Rudwick

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226731285

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226731308.001.0001

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The geologists' time-machine (1825–31)

The geologists' time-machine (1825–31)

(p.147) Chapter 11 The geologists' time-machine (1825–31)
Worlds Before Adam
University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes how the study of fossils in terms of their original habitats and environments was being applied to the interpretation of the rocks and fossils of the Secondary formations, and how it led to the first full reconstructions of entire ecosystems from the deep past. Henry Thomas de la Beche's reconstruction of Dorset in the time of the Lias formation marked the birth of a distinctive new pictorial genre of scenes from deep time. It was also the culmination of years of careful research by Buckland and others, based notably on Anning's spectacular specimens from Lyme Regis, but also on other finds such as Duncan's equally spectacular fossil footprints. However, all this was part of a broader movement within geological practice during the 1820s, by which the straightforward procedures of Smithian stratigraphy were beginning to be transformed into truly geohistorical analyses. Although reconstructions of extinct animals were the most striking achievement, they were being complemented increasingly by reconstructions of the physical environments of the deep past.

Keywords:   fossils, rocks, geology, Secondary formations, de la Beche, Lias formation, Smithian stratigraphy, geohistory

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