NJG88-2-03
2008
“A primitive country of rocks and people” – R.I. Murchison’s Silurian campaign in Norway, 1844
88
2
pp. 117-141
978-82-92394-44-1

In the summer of 1844 the British geologist Roderick Impey Murchison visited Norway to participate in a meeting of Scandinavian natural scientists, and to explore the sedimentary rocks in the vicinity of the Norwegian capital Christiania (now Oslo). He had reason to believe they belonged to his own Silurian System, and after a few days of field work, Murchison could confirm this, producing the first biostratigraphic section of the Norwegian Palaeozoic strata. In the Ringerrike area he found what he took to be a continuous sequence from lifeless (azoic) rocks through his Lower and Upper Silurian shales and limestones into the Old Red Devonian sandstone. The sequence was used to support his claim that there were no fossil-bearing strata below his own Silurian, and that the Cambrian thus was not an independent biostratigraphical unit. The section also in his view demonstrated the unity of the Silurian, the proper position of the Devonian, and the general soundness of the biostratigraphic method. For the study and interpretation of Norwegian geology, Murchison’s brief campaign firmly put the biostratigraphic method on the agenda also for Norwegian geologists.

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