Sunday, August 2, 2009
the flint hills
The Flint Hills of Kansas are a band of hills in eastern Kansas stretching from just north of Wichita to south of Emporia. They can be viewed along Interstate 35 or more scenically from Highway 77.
What is flint? Mineralogical, flint is simply black chert. Chert is a sedimentary rock composed of silicon. The silicon is formed from diatoms - microscopic, single-celled algae that lived during the Cretaceous era when Kansas was an inland sea.
Technically, flint is a finer grain chert and capable of producing a spark when hit against steel. This is not the case with the chert or flint or the Flint Hills. The rocky chert of the Flint Hills renders farming impossible except along the river beds, but allows for cattle ranching.
"The reality of the flint verses chert debate is that in most cases it is something like 'splitting hairs', there really is very little difference, chemically speaking. Artifact collectors tend to call materials that have a more waxy luster 'flints' and those which have less luster to no luster 'cherts'. The difference between them lyes in their purity relative to pure quartz and their matrix particle size. The smaller the particle size and the purer the material, the more likely we collectors would be to call the material flint. To a purist, we would be wrong. A generalist would say 'close enough'."