Studying Stones

What rocks reveal about the stories we’ve lost and the stories we tell

Jack Flanagan (Flickr/jackflanagan)
Jack Flanagan (Flickr/jackflanagan)

Twenty-five years ago, anthropologist Hugh Raffles’s two sisters died suddenly within weeks of each other. “Soon after,” he writes in his new book, “I started reaching for rocks, stones, and other seemingly solid objects as anchors in a world unmoored, ways to make sense of these events through stories far larger than my own, stories that started in the most fundamental and speculative histories—geological, archaeological, histories before history.” The Book of Unconformities is his meditation on the unlikely human stories unearthed in some of the oldest things in the earth—Manhattan marble, the Cape York meteorite, Icelandic lava, petrified whale blubber—and the questions they raise about the very nature of anthropology and memory itself.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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