by Jack Berkley, Professor Emeritus
Houghton Limestone-Chert boulder in 1985 shortly after emplacement outside Houghton Hall entrance. Chairman Barnard stands in center flanked by Travid Development Corp. owners.
The Houghton boulder is composed of gray, fine-grained limestone (mostly calcium carbonate), but with a very high content of gray chert nodules (silica, similar to “flint”). The Clarence member is characterized by its high chert content, but the Houghton boulder is unusual in that chert is volumetrically dominant over limestone. “Rugose” or solitary “horn coral” fossils are fairly common in the carbonate areas of the boulder, although most fossils are highly fractured and granulated suggesting a very high wave-energy marine (seawater) environment. The Onondaga Formation is Middle Devonian in age (around 380 million years ago) and was probably deposited on an off-shore continental shelf near the equator.
Recently another large boulder was unearthed from proto-Lake Erie lake sediments during excavations of the sub-basement for the new STEM building. Like the Houghton boulder, it is also considered to be an ice-rafted glacial boulder. This new rock is a laminated carbonate unit (tan-brown, fine grained dolostone: calcium-magnesium carbonate) that is from a distinctly different rock deposition environment compared to the Houghton boulder. It appears to be quiet water lagoonal in origin with development of cyanobacterial stromatolites (fine-layered organic biofilms) on the sea bed. Cyanobacteria are one of the earliest oxygen-producing life forms on earth, and still exist today. Fish aquariums that are not well maintained commonly produce annoying mats of cyanobacteria (formerly called “blue-green algae”) on the glass walls. In nature, these formed in a very shallow, warm, restricted epicontinental seas (like the Black Sea or Hudson’s Bay) perhaps at 25-30 degrees south latitude. The source of the rock is most likely the Middle/Upper Silurian (about 425 million years ago) Guelph succession or the higher, Late Silurian (about 410 million years ago) Bertie Group interval on the Ontario peninsula.
Like its Houghton Hall mate, this “new” boulder will eventually become part of the outdoor landscape design incorporated into the new STEM complex. Like the Houghton boulder, it will serve not only as an architectural enhancement, but as a teaching-learning attraction for SUNY Fredonia students and instructors.
THANKS to Gordon Baird for providing much information for this piece.