THE TROVANTS THE MYSTERIOUS “LIVING STONES”
Stones have always been a source of inspiration for legends, fables and fantastic stories. They are often attributed magical powers and even some, the gift of life. This is the case of the ” Trovants ” or trovantis. The legends around these enigmatic stones tell stories of other worlds, of how they came to Earth traveling inside the clouds, of their perhaps extraterrestrial origin, and of fairy tales.
SOME OF THE ANCIENT LEGENDS ON TROVANTS
Legends about “living” stones can be found in many fantasy stories and films in the form of mountains or islands, which suddenly come back to life becoming imposing and gigantic creatures, such as the stone giant in The Neverending Story or Frozen.
The Stone Trolls are another classic, fearsome anthropomorphic creatures from Scandinavian folklore. Of uncertain origin, supernatural beings, generally giants and of exceptional strength. Evil and harmful in nature, they are quite stupid and tend to kidnap children, because they like to eat their soft flesh. They turn to stone when exposed to the sun’s rays. In The Hobbit, the British writer JRR Tolkien describes them in a passionate event.
But without a doubt the most endearing are the stone trolls from the movie Frozen, magical creatures that live in an enchanted forest, with a mischievous, friendly and peaceful nature. The Romanian Trovants look surprisingly similar to the latter, don’t you think? And if they were… no, no, it is not possible, they are just a legend.
With the exception of stalactites and stalagmites, which are carbonate or limestone rocks, which are sheltered underground, stones that are exposed to external agents do not usually grow. On the contrary, their size decreases, because they are eroded by atmospheric effects. However some particular Trovants do.
The Trovants that grow (because there are some that only move), for example those in Romania, are made up mostly of calcium carbonate CaCO3, that is, they are made of sandstone. A mineral that gives the rock a great porous capacity. Although there are granite, plutonic igneous rocks (also called intrusive) slowly cooled to great depth and others of ophite rocks (extrusive), of volcanic origin that were formed when the magma or lava that emerged to the surface was consolidated.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TROVANTS
We have to go back in time more than 66 million years, to the beginning of the Cenozoic Era. In Greek it means “new animals”, because in this period the mammals appeared.
The Trovants were generated in exposed areas to tectonic forces prevailing in that period. In areas of deformation of the cataclastic crust, where the brutal collisions occurred that moved the continental masses to their current position. That is, they emerged from breaches of a fault or from igneous environments, such as a volcano.
Under these circumstances the Trovants were born, during the process of volcanic and seismic events, earthquakes. When they emerged on the earth’s surface they were simple pebbles, gravel, sand or linens, clastic or detrital rocks, also called sedimentary rocks because they tend to settle in quiet areas where they later harden due to the lithification process.
Composed of fragments detached from other larger rocks, or clasts, and pre-existing minerals, once they emerged on the earth’s surface they were exposed to the erosion of the elements. And over time they were even mechanically swept away by rain and river water, by ice, mud flows and strong gusts of wind, until over time their journey slowed down to a complete stop.
In fact sandstones are sedimentary rocks or rocks that have suffered alterations due to diagenesis. That is to say, rocks formed inside the earth’s crust, at an approximate depth of a few meters to 5 or 6 km and at temperatures ranging between 150º and 200º. At that depth, water infiltrations still occur, in which various substances are dissolved.
The highly porous structure of sandstone allows the percolation of water and fluids through its internal structure. In the process of diagenesis, the contact points between the grains are subjected to great pressure and at these points, the filtered mineral is more soluble than the rest of the rock. The solution produced at these points of greatest contact allows compaction or cementation.
The Trovants grains were coming together, being very close one next to the other, compacting themselves so much that in the end they consolidated forming sandstone, and in some cases quartzites. This is how many other types of stone are also transformed, such as conglomerates composed of sand, silt, clay, which are then cemented with calcium carbonate, iron oxide or silica. So the diverse colored with the sandstones is due to the ” impurities ” dissolved in filtered water underground. Some are of a beautiful reddish color like in the excavated tombs of Petra, Jordan.
However, in the Trovants that we know, in particular those that grow, such as those from Romania, this cause would only be correlated to the color of its core, the legendary “original stone” or mother stone. Because both the exterior that is seen and the concentric rings formed inside have a color generated and determined by the spheroidal weathering process, an evolution that occurred after its diagenesis and carried out outside, on the surface of the earth.
As we say, the primordial bedrock or nucleus of the Trovants is the product of various mineral compositions and chemical reactions, and may have an igneous, metamorphic origin (that is, it has been transformed without change in the state of its structure, either due to having been subjected to temperature and pressure conditions different from those of its origin or due to the action of fluids), or sedimentary.
And the exterior of the Trovant is made of sandstone, as we have explained before, they are sedimentary of clastic origin, generally composed of grains of silicate, quartz or feldspar, but there are also lithium grains.
HOW TROVANTS GROW
It occurs when it rains and they get wet. But they do not multiply in contact with water, like the Gremlins, creating other specimens different from them, but they do grow. The longest ones reach 400kg and can measure up to 10 meters.
The sandstone from which the Trovant is formed is rich in calcium carbonate minerals and is originally highly porous. The rain water contains several dissolved minerals and has an acidic pH to contain carbon dioxide.
When it penetrates through the pores of the sandstone, and into contact with calcium carbonate occurs one chemical reaction, because it is reactive with the acid and the minerals dissolved in it, generating a spontaneous reaction occurs in the gas inside, that is to say effervescence (formed by bubbles of carbon dioxide) and internal pressure.
Surely you have ever seen this chemical reaction live on the marble countertop of a kitchen, when it has come into contact with an acid, such as lemon juice, for example. It produces effervescence and white spots remain that are very difficult to remove. It is the same case. Although marble is formed from limestone rocks and is a metamorphic rock, it is also sedentary and is also composed of calcium carbonate, more than 90%. This chemical reaction can also be clearly seen in carbonated drinks or when we pour an effervescent vitamin tablet into a glass of water. The acid reacts with the carbonate producing effervescence. Perhaps that is why they say that these stones breathe, and that they make noise or speak at night, because this activity is sensed and felt, as the internal bubbling.
This geological process with which the stones grow in size is called spheroidal weathering. It is a common phenomenon that we can observe in many parts of the world spontaneously. To give some examples, this phenomenon was identified in Estaca de Bares, A Coruña, Galicia Spain on some granite rocks and on Ophite rocks in Huesca also in Spain.
On the Externsteine rocks, within the Teutoburg Forest, Germany, on sandstone rocks.
In some corestones near Musina, a town in South Africa. In the Pilbara, Western Australia, on a dolerite dam.
Also in the Kola Peninsula in Russia, in places in South America like Chile, in Colombia, in the Joshua Tree National Monument in California, the United States, in Japan, China and other places. But let’s see in more detail what it consists of.
SPHEROIDAL WEATHERING: A CHEMICAL REACTION
It is a form of weathering, that is, it is an alteration or change due to the action of rainwater. Water is the meterorizing agent. Water chemically weathers rock by the effect of hydrolysis. The most common mineral group that uses hydrolysis in weathering, is usually the silicates of which sandstone is also formed.
Weathering breaks down rock components and the internal structures of minerals. New minerals aretherefore produced that remain in the newly created layer or are released into the surrounding environment. During this transformation, the original rock breaks down into other substances that are more stable in the surrounding environment. The products resulting from chemical weathering will remain essentially unchanged as long as analogous environmental conditions remain, similar to those that existed when they were developed.
Therefore, the bedrock is the source of mineral matter from which the new soil or layer will develop. As the formation of the new substrate progresses it will undergo physical and chemical changes (hence the bumps and odd shapes). The bedrock is considered to be the underlying rock or a layer of deposits not yet consolidated. When the bedrock is composed of rocky substrate (original rock), they are called residual soils. Those that develop on unconsolidated sediments are called transported soils (because these transported soils are formed in the place where , by gravity, water, mud, wind or ice, the materials have been deposited, let’s call them “parents”).
The composition of the core of the bedrock affect on the speed of weathering, that is the growth. But not only that, it will also influence the composition of the plant bed where the stone is perched, and of course the climate, one of the most determining factors. The temperature, the rainfall, even the plant and animal life present in the place where the Trovants are, because these factors also determine the composition of the soil where they rest and therefore can influence at a chemical level too.
This form of chemical weathering affects the bedrock, known as saprolite (in which the original rock structures still exist), forming concentric or spherical layers around it.
Hence, when Trovants are cut in half, they show in their interior concentric circles or rings of Liesengang, like the trunks of trees, with which they say their age can be calculated. And we can also observe them when the layers peel off,as if they were peels or onion skin, sometimes exposing the saprolite to external erosion.
The increase in volume, then, occurs when the rock is chemically altered, when it comes into contact with othersecondary minerals, such as sericite, kaolinite, serpentine, montmorillinite and chlorite. It therefore occurs in granite rocks, dolerite (commonly called black granite), basalt and sedimentary rocks such as silicified sandstone.
It creates in its bed a three-dimensional network that sometimes forms rough cubes, or protrusions, as in the case of Trovants, which are rounded, domed or swollen in some parts of its surface, or rectangular prisms, which form separate blocks in a quadrilateral shape, as in the corestones or wool sacks, so called, because they resemble sacks piled on top of each other.
The tor, another type of Trovant, also called the castle koppie or kopje, is a large freestanding rock that rises boldly from above a relatively flat surface. The Dartmoor in Devon and the Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, located in the southwest of England , and the Altai Krai of Siberia are famous examples. The word Tor comes from Old English meaning “mass of bare rock crowned and surrounded by blocks and boulders.”
Within the structure of the stone, therefore, a cementation of the components takes place, which partly reduces the porosity of the sandstone, which contributes to the increase in size of its most superficial layer and resistance to mechanical action or external erosion Hence, differentiated hardened layers are formed.
The phenomenon of spheroidal weathering has been observed in different parts of the world, it occurs in clumps of joined rocks of granite, basalt, dolerite, and sedimentary rocks such as silicified sandstone, from which these particular Trovants that grow are formed.
This reaction makes the mineral grains found inside “move” or slide, perhaps billions, depending on the size of the stone. And in this way, the so enigmatic growth of the Trovant stone takes place, from the inside to the outside, forming layers of different compositions and therefore also colors, depending on the minerals with which it has reacted, the famous “Liesegang rings”, which we can observe in both limestone and granite, they say in this way they can date the Trovant stone age.
THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME “TROVANT”
They were named for the first time by a renowned Romanian geologist, mineralogist and pedologist, Gheorghe Munteanu-Murgoci (1872-1925), founder of the Institute for Southeast European Studies in Bucharest and of the Romanian School of Pedology, an honorary member of the International Soil Science Association (ISSS) and the Romanian Academy. He also received several awards and recognitions, including the Carl Friedrich Gauss Silver Medal of Honor, the Steaua Româniel Medal and the Bene Merenti Medal.
As an expert geologist, he carried out various geological and petrographic investigations both abroad (specifically in England, the United States, California and Russia ), and in Romania, his birthplace.
The “discovery” of the Trovants of Romania occurred during atectonic, petrographic and mineralogical study and made Murgoci in the region of Oltenia in which he also discovered a new mineral called Lotrit, Pumpellyite or Loteria, (coming from Lotru, a tributary from the river Olt, located in the county of Olt in Romania.) Precisely where the Cozia National Park of more than 17,100 hectares is located, in the Vâlcea region.
The Cozia National Park and in particular the Cozia and Lotrisor massif (an extensive area where you can also enjoy a beautiful waterfall), was included in 2017 to the more than 50 forests distributed by twelve European countries, as a natural heritage property of Humanity within the program “Ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe” of UNESCO. It is a historical region in the south west of Romania, limited precisely by the named river Olt, the Danube, and the southern Carpathians.
The new mineral discovered by Murgoci, the Lotrit, it is a hydrous silicate consisting of calcium, magnesium, aluminum and iron, crystallized in the monoclinic system, of a green color, whose shape crystallization coincidentally resembles the leaf of a plant.
An old area of oil interest, surrounded by mountains, hills, rivers and valleys. Where once, before the Roman conquest, various Geto-Dacian tribes settled, including them, the Peliii, the Sucii, and the Burii, and also the Celts.
There, among beech forests and beautiful natural landscapes, Murgoci found some strange stones, which the local people quickly classified as “alive”, because according to them they breathed, spoke and made noises at night and even moved. In fact, there are those who have them in their garden and water them frequently to make them grow. They are considered bearers of good fortune, also called “treasure”, and in the past there was the custom of placing them next to the graves.
Undoubtedly unusual characteristics that were scientifically analyzed and explained in detail in Murgoci’s famous book entitled ” Tertiary Formations of Oltenia, with respect to salt, oil and mineral springs. “
The exact place where Murgoci found the Trovants was in the vicinity of a small town called Costesti, in Romania 74 km from Cozia. A place located within the Cozia Park (hence they are also considered a “natural reserve” and a World Heritage Site).
The Trovants of Romania are of great scientific interest, but also tourist. In 2008 some of the research on the Trovants was presented at an International Congress of Miningology, in Oslo. And in the Trovant Museum created in 2004, located in the same town, some specimens of this extraordinary geological anomaly rest, for some an “inorganic life”.
THE MOTION CAPACITY OF TROVANTS
Trovants have been the subject of much study, speculation, and legend for decades. In addition to their proven ability to grow, some say they can also move.
Since ancient times has been called Trovant these stones that move without intervention human or animal. Wandering, browsing, sliding or just mobiles. They may be debris originating from a mountainous glacier or detached from a mountainous mass. The fact is that they usually are dragged by ice, the rivers and the wind, moving them until they find a place where they end in a secure place.
That the stones move is already a scientifically proven fact. It is a curious geological phenomenon that for years has intrigued scientists and public opinion.
The long traces of their movements, grooves in the flat surface, were evident to all. They undoubtedly showed that the stones had slipped, even in some cases they had traveled up to almost 30 meters.
Subsequent studies showed that the stones had moved in an arc of 2 to 3 years, and most of their tracks have been preserved for 3 to 4 years. Some stones with sharper angles tend to leave streaks and wrinkles. Those with a smooth base leave more vague marks. Sometimes the stones overturn, positioning another of their faces on the surface, which makes the trail different. They also have different orientations and their traces are usually between 3 and 30 cm wide and 3 to 30 meters long. The depth of the sulcus is usually an average of 2.5 cm. And the size of the stones is usually between 15 and 45 cm.
This phenomenon has been located in different parts of the world. In the steppes of Kazakhstan, Russia, the Czech Republic, the American Southwest, California, Sahara, Spain, Tunisia and others.
For example in Death Valley National Park in California, United States, the wandering stones come from a promontory approximately 260 meters high located at the southern end of the beach, formed by black dolomites. Others in the same area are of igneous origin, derived from nearby places, the latter are called syenites, rich in feldspar.
There are different scientific theories on why these wandering stones move. On the one hand, a common characteristic is that they tend to do so in water-saturated land. This fact would facilitate the sliding effect on the surface. They are also usually land with a thin layer of clay. There are also other places where there are sudden drops in temperature, which favors the formation of ice sheets on its surface. And on the other hand there are the so-called microbial “tapestries”.
Of the latter we find a case in Spain. A phenomenon of wandering stones was observed in 2013, in the ephemeral lagoon called Altillo Chica in Lillo, Toledo. The phenomenon presented a meandering trajectory from the interior of the lagoon towards the shore. Stones of approximately 5 kg.
The possibility of the creation of ice sheets did not exist there, because such low temperatures are not recorded. But the movement had been observed to occur during stormy episodes. The wind was undoubtedly the propellant, as it had been for the other cases in the rest of the world as well.
Initial wind gusts, coupled with moisturizing and slippery from the rain water, was breaking the microbial mats developed on the sedimentary bottom of the lagoon. The breaking of the tapestry, of the surface layer of the ground, exposed to the outside the sedimentary layer that subsisted underneath, not very dense, that is, more fluid and full of gas bubbles due to the existing microbial action.
An ideal surface that facilitated the “buoyancy” of the stones, which were also driven abruptly by air currents. That is, through this combination of the atmospheric elements at that precise moment, wind and water, the sedimentary layer discovered dragged stones, branches, bark and any other residue that was on top.
Speeds of up to 2 m/s were recorded with winds of 14 m/s. And through the GPS equipment installed in some of those stones, the phenomenon could be observed live without leaving room for doubt.
Obviously in the other cases something similar happened. The wind had also been the trigger for the displacements. Strong initial wind gusts together with strong sustained winds that make it possible to slide the stones, on ice plates or subtle clay layers. Both surfaces eliminate the friction existing with the ground to a minimum, which makes it easier for them to skid or slip, pushed by the wind. But these, are other types of Trovants, they do not grow, they only glide.
But in the case of the special Trovants that also grow, their supposed “magical” movement capacity is also little noticeable. In addition to low (say move only a few centimeters in the course of a long time, maybe 2 or 3 cm. After hundreds of years) may be caused by the mechanical effect that could generate the change of weight and of form of it.
That is, as it grows, its weight, volume and shape change, which would, together with the change produced in the surface of the land where it is supported (by the erosive action of the climate and the change in the surrounding canopy), make it possible to change its previous point of support, due to the deviation of the axis of gravity. To put it another way, as it grows, there is a change in volume and weight, in addition to the fact that with the passage of time the erosion in the land also changes, even without wind, it is likely that on some occasion, or little by little ” Lose their balance and fall ” to the side, causing the so enigmatic movement or displacement.
Even with a scientific explanation, nature does not cease to amaze us. Unique strangeness that inspire us with mysterious legends about extraterrestrial or magical creatures. Singularities of an extravagant nature whose mysteries are still many unsolved.
Have we encountered an extraordinary geological anomaly, or are they some kind of inorganic life?
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