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Creation 23(1):17, December 2000

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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

Petrified flour


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The oblong rocks at the Eureka Springs Gardens in Arkansas, USA, bring a curious smile to passing tourists, once they inspect them closely.

Grey and smooth, the rocks have a fabric imprint, resembling coarse canvas sacking. They look remarkably like sacks of flour! The bottom of one sack is elongated and even preserves a pattern of stitching. The top is pulled together, complete with petrified wrinkles, as if it was once tied with rope.

Although they look like bags of flour, they are heavy and difficult to lift. The largest one weighs 38 kg (84 lb)—over three times heavier than a similar amount of flour.

The bags feel different too. A bag of flour is normally soft, and bends when it is lifted. These bags are as hard as rock. They make a hard, sharp sound when slapped, and would break your knuckles, too, if you punched them.

The little sign gives the story: “You are looking at parts of petrified flour sacks from the Blue Spring mill.’ Although not suitable to eat, these sacks of petrified flour give lots of ‘food for thought”.

Blue Spring holds the secret of these petrified flour sacks. It is a tranquil circular pool at least 155 m (510 ft) deep, into which cool water rises silently from the earth at 150 million litres (38 million gallons) per day. It is a feature of the gardens.

Since the 1840s, spring water was used to drive a large mill, and grind wheat and corn (maize). The bags of flour were almost certainly made in the mill, and left abandoned when it stopped operating around 1903.

The bags became petrified after they were saturated by water from the spring. Minerals from the limestone strata dissolved in the spring water before it flowed from the earth. Later those minerals precipitated in the waterlogged flour sacks—turning them into solid rock.

A small sample of petrified flour was chipped from one of the bags for analysis. It was like hammering hard rock. Microscopic examination revealed that the flour was still present, but all the air space had been filled with tiny calcium carbonate crystals. There was no burlap bag remaining—it must have rotted away.

We are told repeatedly that petrification (or petrifaction) requires an unimaginably long time—millions of years—to occur. Because of this cultural conditioning, people are surprised to discover that rocks can form quickly. This sense of surprise is the reason for the exhibit, and the notice alongside the sacks explains it all:

“It is commonly believed that petrification is a process taking millions of years … not true! Under ideal conditions petrification can take place in as few as three weeks.”

It’s a fact. Petrification does not need millions of years. Rocks can harden very quickly under the right conditions. The evidence is all around us. We just need eyes to see and willingness to accept the obvious.

Helpful Resources

Rock Solid Answers
by Michael J Oard, John K Reed
US $20.00
Soft Cover
Geology by Design
by Carl R Froede Jr
US $15.00
Soft Cover
Rapid Rocks
US $10.00

Readers’ comments

Bill B.
The Petrifying Well at Mother Shipton's Cave at Knaresborough, Yorkshire has been known for centuries. Find it with your favourite search engine! From the website "It takes between three and five months to petrify a teddy bear." Even though the rapidity of petrifaction has been known for centuries, this does not appear to have shaken the dogma that petrifaction takes millennia.
Andy D.
Hi, I have a question about the 'Petrified flour' article. On a secular site someone countered with the remark there is a diffferrence between mineralization and fossilization. The first being what happend to the flour sacks, empty space between the subject material being filled with minerals, which they agree would take just a little time to happen. And the second being actual replacement of the subject material, which in their argument can't happen in a short period of time. How can we counter this argument from a creationist perspective?
Tas Walker
That criticism is wrong. Petrification can be accomplished by either or both of the two processes you describe: permineralization and replacement. A fossil on the other hand is simply a sign of past life in a rock. It can be petrified, replaced, the organism itself, or marks made by the organism such as a footprint or a burrow. A fossil does not have to be petrified. The whole point is that these processes can happen very quickly, which is contrary to the impression we are given that it takes millions of years. This means that fossils are not a reason to dismiss the biblical account.
Gerald M.
I'm wondering what would carbon dating on this come out to.
Tas Walker
It's hard to tell. It probably would not be too far off because the assumptions behind carbon dating have a reasonable chance in this case of being valid. All, the same, if the date was way off it would simply be rejected. See figure 3 on this article about calibration.
Elsa K.
Nice, just made me wonder, if we know the mineral content of the water and could make a similar solution or even stronger, we could make all kinds of things into stone would make a great product. You could make any kind of stone and it would be real stone to building or decoration.
Tas Walker
There are many examples of processes that make artificial minerals, such as diamonds, opals, and sandstone. See article on rapid rock.
Philippus S.
Evolutionists cannot create what they believe in themselves without using what God created.

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