What is granite?
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What is Granite?

Granite

January 2017 - Granite forms when bits of quartz and feldspar shoot 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 the way they do in sedimentary rocks like limestone or slate.

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

Because granite is so hard, artists and architects 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 quartz
More about igneous rocks
More about Egyptian sculpture
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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