Tools in rock at Aix-en-Provence

According to an account published in The American Journal of Science and Arts 1 (1820), numerous quarrymen’s tools were found during limestone quarrying near Aix-en-Provence (France) between 1786 and 1788. The strata of limestone were separated by strata of sand and clay and beneath the eleventh layer, at a depth of between 12 and 15 m (40 to 50 feet), the sand contained what were described as the stumps of stone pillars, fragments of partly worked limestone and the handles of petrified wooden tools. A large, broken slab of agate-like material some 2.1 to 2.5 m long and 25 mm thick, appeared to have been a quarryman’s board like those used at the time, with rounded and wavy edges.

These remains sound like the remains of a petrified forest, the stone ‘pillars’ being the remains of tree stumps and the apparent tool handles the remains of branches. At the time of the discovery, such phenomena were not understood and it is easy to see how the quarrymen might interpret petrified tree remains as petrified tools. In short, there is no real mystery here and certainly no evidence for phenomenally ancient tools!

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