Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Belt Meteor Crater - NOT!

FYI - I took this photo with a drone. That is me standing on the other side of the crater.

Wrong name.
The Belt Meteor Crater, which is located on private land in central Montana, was NOT made by a meteorite slamming into the prairie. It is actually a sinkhole, caused by the dissolution of limestone beneath the surface. The rim of the crater is made of sandstone, but a thick (up to 1700 feet) formation called the Madison limestone underlies the area. As water soaks down through soils above, it becomes slightly acidic. Then as this water works its way down through cracks, it dissolves away the limestone, forming caves. The sinkhole is 100 feet across and 40 feet deep, so a fairly large cave must have formed in the limestone not far beneath the surface here. Eventually the layers of sandstone above the cave collapsed onto the cavern floor to form the sinkhole.

Kill Site.
The Belt Meteor Crater once served as a buffalo jump, or "pishkun", for Native Americans as evidenced by bison bones and arrowheads on the floor of the hole. "Pishkun" is Blackfeet for "deep blood kettle." Scientists visited the sinkhole to collect bison bones that can be carbon-dated to determine when Indians used it. They also found an arrowhead(s) made of obsidian. Experts can determine where the obsidian came from by comparing its mineral composition with obsidian outcrops in the region. This can help provide insights about Native American trade routes.

Term: dissolution

Map of sinkholes in Florida - May home-owners in Florida actually buy sinkhole insurance!

More photos of the Belt Meteor Crater (Google Album) - lots of geology

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