The Ancient Life History of the Earth eBook

Henry Alleyne Nicholson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 483 pages of information about The Ancient Life History of the Earth.

In the above list, allusion has necessarily been omitted to numerous works and memoirs on the Cambrian deposits of Sweden and Norway, Central Europe, Russia, Spain, and various parts of North America, as well as to a number of important papers on the British Cambrian strata by various well-known observers.  Amongst these latter may be mentioned memoirs by Prof.  Phillips, and Messrs Salter, Hicks, Belt, Plant, Homfray, Ash, Holl, &c.



The great system of deposits to which Sir Roderick Murchison applied the name of “Silurian Rocks” reposes directly upon the highest Cambrian beds, apparently without any marked unconformity, though with a considerable change in the nature of the fossils.  The name “Silurian” was originally proposed by the eminent geologist just alluded to for a great series of strata lying below the Old Red Sandstone, and occupying districts in Wales and its borders which were at one time inhabited by the “Silures,” a tribe of ancient Britons.  Deposits of a corresponding age are now known to be largely developed in other parts of England, in Scotland, and in Ireland, in North America, in Australia, in India, in Bohemia, Saxony, Bavaria, Russia, Sweden and Norway, Spain, and in various other regions of less note.  In some regions, as in the neighbourhood of St Petersburg, the Silurian strata are found not only to have preserved their original horizontality, but also to have retained almost unaltered their primitive soft and incoherent nature.  In other regions, as in Scandinavia and many parts of North America, similar strata, now consolidated into shales, sandstones, and limestones, may be found resting with a very slight inclination on still older sediments.  In a great many regions, however, the Silurian deposits are found to have undergone more or less folding, crumpling, and dislocation, accompanied by induration and “cleavage” of the finer and softer sediments; whilst in some regions, as in the Highlands of Scotland, actual “metamorphism” has taken place.  In consequence of the above, Silurian districts usually present the bold, rugged, and picturesque outlines which are characteristic of the older “Primitive” rocks of the earth’s crust in general.  In many instances, we find Silurian strata rising into mountain-chains of great grandeur and sublimity, exhibiting the utmost diversity of which rock-scenery is capable, and delighting the artist with endless changes of valley, lake, and cliff.  Such districts are little suitable for agriculture, though this is often compensated for by the valuable mineral products contained in the rocks.  On the other hand, when the rocks are tolerably soft and uniform in their nature, or when few disturbances of the crust of the earth have taken place, we may find Silurian areas to be covered with an abundant pasturage or to be heavily timbered.

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The Ancient Life History of the Earth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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