Minerals

Red ocher has served many history, from painting cave walls to tanning hides.

Cool Finds

This 12,000-Year-Old Wyoming Quarry Could Be North America's Oldest Mine

The state's archaeologists believe people quarried red ocher at Powars II starting 12,840 years ago

Zeolite, a clay material found in kitty litter, may be the next tool to help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

Innovation for Good

Minerals Used in Kitty Litter Could Help Fight Climate Change

A MIT study shows how, when treated with copper, a clay called zeolite can convert methane to carbon dioxide, a less powerful greenhouse gas

Adam Hardin's 2.38-carat brown diamond "Frankenstone" is the size of a pinto bean.

Cool Finds

Treasure Hunter Unearths 2.38-Carat 'Frankenstone' Diamond

Adam Hardin discovered the impressive brown gem at an Arkansas state park

Bon Ami Mine is located in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, about 50 miles northeast of Asheville.

Black Lights Turn This North Carolina Mine Into a Psychedelic Wonderland

The Bon Ami Mine’s deposits of the mineral hyalite glow fluorescent green under ultraviolet light

Early humans were likely exposed to mercury through cinnabar, a sulfide mineral that produces a bright red powder when pulverized.

New Research

Earliest Evidence of Mercury Poisoning in Humans Found in 5,000-Year-Old Bones

Researchers discovered the toxic element in remains buried across the Iberian Peninsula between the Neolithic period and antiquity

The researchers named the mineral davemaoite, after the well-known geophysicist Ho-kwang (Dave) Mao.

From Deep Within Earth's Mantle, This Never-Before-Seen Mineral Hitched a Ride to the Surface in a Diamond

Scientists previously synthesized the mineral in a lab using immense amounts of pressure, but they were surprised to find it in nature

DNA from the skin of this mummified sheep leg allowed researchers to study sheep husbandry practices in ancient Iran.

Researchers Recover DNA From 1,600-Year-Old, Naturally Mummified Sheep Leg

The molecules offer insights on ancient farming practices near the Chehrabad salt mine in Iran

From forests to fish to flakes of snow, the science behind ice cream reaches beyond the cone.

Smithsonian Voices

The Strangely Scientific Endeavor of Making Ice Cream

Ice cream's texture is the result of the same processes that govern concepts like forest recovery, rock formation and sub-zero survival in animals.

The blue areas in this composite image from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) aboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 orbiter show water concentrated at the Moon's poles. Homing in on the spectra of rocks there, researchers found signs of hematite, a form of rust.

Why Is the Moon Covered in Rust? Even Scientists Are Stumped by This Metal Mystery

Without oxygen and water, how is the substance

A Roman lead ingot recently unearthed in Wales

Cool Finds

Local Man Finds 2,000-Year-Old Roman Lead Ingot in Welsh Field

Rob Jones' discovery adds a tangible piece of evidence to the history of mining in Roman Britain

What makes the Whitney Flame topaz such an astonishing acquisition is its homogeneous fiery-red. “We recognized right away that this is something different than we’d ever seen,” says Smithsonian gems curator Jeff Post.

The Whitney Flame Topaz Smolders in Vibrant Red

A new gemstone at the Natural History Museum is already igniting wonder in viewers

New Research

Where Did the Aztecs Get Their Turquoise?

New analysis shows the blue-green mineral found in Aztec art was likely mined in Mexico, not the American Southwest as previously believed

Leif Erikson pointing toward North America. Did he use a sunstone to navigate the open seas?

New Research

Simulation Suggests Viking Sunstones of Legend Could Have Worked

If they existed, the crystals—used to locate the sun's position on cloudy days—could have helped Vikings sail to far away places

Never-Before-Seen Mineral Found Inside a Diamond

The diamond acted as a container, keeping a piece of calcium silicate perovskite stable as it moved towards the Earth’s surface

The 910-carat diamond discovered in Lesotho

Cool Finds

World's Fifth-Largest Diamond Found in Lesotho

The 910-carat gem is a D-color, type-IIa stone, meaning it is completely colorless and has no visible impurities

Ask Smithsonian

Do Other Animals Cry and More Questions From Our Readers

You asked, we answered

The Cavern Grotto restaurant is located 21 stories underground.

Dine 21 Stories Underground in This 345-Million-Year-Old Cavern

Cavern Grotto, a new restaurant in Arizona, opens inside the largest dry cavern system in the country

Parisite-(La), a carbon-bearing mineral that was predicted by computer model before it was discovered.

Big Data (and You) Could Help Find 1,500 Undiscovered Minerals

Researchers are using new tools to predict where to find new minerals as well as to locate new sources of valuable resources like copper

Statuary inside the salt cathedral.

Step Inside This Underground Cathedral, Carved Into the Walls of an Abandoned Salt Mine

An old mine has transformed into a subterranean worship space, 650 feet underground

A man fills up buckets with dirt while hunting for diamonds at Crater Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

American South

Finders, Keepers: Five of the Best Places to Go Gem Hunting in the U.S.

From diamonds to emeralds, the United States is full of buried bling

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