Petrified wood: fast or slow?

Wood samples immersed in steaming lake petrified within seven years. Image from Akahane.2


How long does it take to make petrified wood? This was the Q&A topic of ‘Life’s Little Mysteries’ featured on LiveScience. The following answer was given:

‘Petrified wood forms when fallen trees get washed down a river and buried under layers of mud, ash from volcanoes and other materials. Sealed beneath this muck deprives the rotting wood from oxygen—the necessary ingredient for decay. As the wood’s organic tissues slowly break down, the resulting voids in the tree are filled with minerals such as silica—the stuff of rocks. Over millions of years, these minerals crystallize within the wood’s cellular structure forming the stone-like material known as petrified wood.’1

The response is largely accurate. Rapid, catastrophic burial beneath fallen trees, wet sediment, and volcanic ash which prevent the normal process of organic decay are crucial in the petrification process. However, millions of years are not required to petrify wood. In fact, there is testable and observational evidence which demonstrates that wood can be petrified much more rapidly under the right conditions.

Real evidence supports rapid petrification

Wood Samples
Natural Wood
Silica filled wood tissue in (A) freshly immersed wood samples and (B) naturally fallen wood. Image from Akahane.2

In 2004, five Japanese scientists published examples of rapid petrification in Sedimentary Geology.2 Ironically, their report in the secular geology journal cited an article by creation geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling in Creation magazine.3 The team of scientists, led by Hisatada Akahane, had analyzed a small lake in the explosion crater of the Tateyama Volcano in central Japan. A mineral-rich solution springs up from the bottom and fills the 15 m lake with steaming hot acidic water. This mineral-rich water then runs over the edge as a waterfall.

They discovered that the naturally fallen wood in the overflow had been petrified with silica. What surprised the scientists was the fact that the wood was less than 36 years old. As a result, the scientists conducted an experiment in which they fastened pieces of fresh wood in the lake with wire. Surprisingly, after only 7 years the wood had turned into stone, petrified with silica.

Under a powerful microscope they observed that the silica was deposited in the same way in the naturally fallen wood as in some wood found in nearby volcanic ash. Hot, mineral rich water had soaked into the pore spaces in the wood.

Noah’s Flood

During Noah’s Flood, conditions would have been highly favourable for rapid petrification. Entire forests ripped apart, felled trees transported by raging floodwaters, significant volcanic activity, large amounts of mineral rich water (Genesis 7:11) and rapid burial by layers of wet sediment would have been a direct result of the year-long global Flood.

Once again, the hard scientific data supports the biblical account. If wood can turn to stone in ten years or less, then the rocks and fossils we find in the sedimentary strata could have easily formed in Noah’s Flood and the 4,500 years since.4

Published: 16 February 2007


  1. Bryner, M., How long does it take to make petrified wood? (was at www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/225-how-long-does-it-take-to-make-petrified-wood.html on 10 March 2010. Link now broken as at 25 Jan 2021) Return to Text.
  2. Akahane, H., et al., Rapid wood silicification in hot spring water: An explanation of silicification of wood during the earth’s history, Sedimentary Geology 169(3–4):219–228, 15 July 2004. Return to Text.
  3. Snelling, A.A., ‘Instant’ petrified wood, Creation 17(4):38–40, 1995. Return to Text.
  4. Walker, T., Wood petrified in spring, Creation 28(3):18–19, 2006. Return to Text.

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