Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ancient legacy

My Grandfather, Guy, was a stone hunter and agate cutter. When he passed away several years back, he left behind literally thousands of agates and other stones. I am now the lucky owner of several bins of rare stones.

Some of my favorites are the Dryhead Agates he found - from the Bighorn Canyon area of Montana, just north of the Wyoming border. This is a remote area which, even today, is largely unsettled.

"Historically, the area was used as hunting ground for Native Americans, who used the cliffs to drive buffalo to their deaths. As part of their hunting rituals, the tribes of this region stacked the heads from the buffalo to dry and bleach in the sun. These stacks of bleached skulls gave the area its famous name – DRYHEAD." - from

A few of Grandfather Guy's Montana Dryhead Agates L-R: raw, slab, polished
photo by Cecilia Doan

The bands inside the agates formed when layers of silica crystallized. Agates with bands, such as the three shown above, are called "fortification" agates. The origin of the word fortify stems from the Latin word fortis, meaning strong. Like a fortress viewed from above, they are truly magnificent.

It is hard to describe how it feels when I'm sorting through the stones my Grandfather left behind. Many are cut and polished, ready to set. Others are much like rocks you'd see while hiking, you'd never notice them. I often wonder what his plans for each stone were. Perhaps an ornate belt buckle, or ring, or cuff. I also wonder what year it was, what clothes he wore, and if my Grandmother was there.

There are so many things I'm curious about. Which is exactly how he would want it.


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