What is granite?
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What is Granite?


May 2016 - Granite forms when bits of quartz and feldspar are shot out of volcanoes, so it's one kind of igneous rock. The word "granite" comes from the Latin word "granum", a grain, because granite is made of lots of smaller bits of quartz and feldspar stuck together (think of our word "granary", a place where you store grain). Granite comes in different colors, usually pink to gray or sometimes black.

Granite's a very hard stone. It's hard because it formed as hot liquid stone, and so the molecules inside it are all jumbled up any which way, instead of lying in layers as in sedimentary rocks like limestone or slate.

carved gray stone woman head
Granite head of Nefertiti
(now in Berlin)

Because granite is so hard, people sometimes use it for building stone or statues if you want them to last a long time. But granite is so hard that it's also hard to cut into blocks or statues. To cut granite, stone-cutters poured sand into a groove and rubbed the sand in with a copper saw - this pushed the sand into the cut and made the cut deeper, like sandpaper. In ancient Egypt, sculptors used granite to carve statues of pharaohs. People today often use granite for kitchen countertops, too.

Learn by doing: finding different kinds of rocks
More about igneous rocks

Bibliography and further reading about rocks:

More about igneous rocks
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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