Proterozoic means before
life, and signifies the rocks that contain no fossils indicative of life;
Paleozoic signifies the most ancient forms of life; Mesozoic signifies
"middle life" or those between the most ancient and the Cenozoic, or recent
forms of life.
The periods are lesser divisions of the eras. In the
Proterozoic, there are two periods, viz.: the Archaean and the Algonkian.
The Paleozoic has six periods, viz.: the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian,
Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian. The Mesozoic era has three periods,
the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, while the Cenozoic era names five
periods, - the Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene.
Absence of Certain Strata. To shorten our story, let me at once say that
during the periods that the Ordovician, the Silurian and the Devonian were
forming, the Grand Canyon region was either above water so that it received
none of these sediments, or, if any were deposited, they were almost
entirely removed by the weathering processes before described, ere the
region again sank into the ocean to receive the deposits of the
The Carboniferous. During this latter period, more than three thousand feet
of strata were deposited. These are the most striking in appearance of all
the Canyon strata, for they reach from the Tonto shales to the rim, and
consist of three principal strata (with many smaller ones in between). The
largest is the red-wall limestone, which constitutes the base of nearly all
the architectural forms found in the Canyon, and is the thickest of all the
strata. It presents the "tallest" wall of the series. The two separate
walls, one above the other, on the top of the Canyon, as seen in the arms
of the amphitheatre at El Tovar, are the other two wide members of this
Carboniferous period. The lower is the cross-bedded sandstone, and the
upper the cherty limestone. There is a remarkable difference in the
appearance and the material of which these Carboniferous strata are formed,
and those of the East and Europe. We generally think of coal-beds - carbon
when this period is mentioned. Here there are none. In the East, in
England, and in other parts of Europe, vast marshes existed in this period,
and the rank vegetation of these marshy areas formed the coal-beds, with
which the Carboniferous there abounds. It is only by the fossils found that
the periods to which the various strata belong are determined, and the
fossils, millions of which abound in the upper limestone, are clearly of
the Carboniferous epoch.
As these strata and this period bring us to the "rim" of the Canyon, it
might be easy to imagine that the processes of uplift and subsidence, and
deposition of more strata, as far as the Canyon region is concerned, now
cease. Such, however, is not the case.
Later Strata. As we go away from the Canyon, either north or east, we find
thousands of feet more of the later depositions, and the geologists affirm
that many of these at one time may have overlaid the Canyon region.
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