Created By: The History Center in Tompkins County
Ithaca has been recycling since the Devonian Period!
Despite the extraordinary ability of humans to dramatically change what a place looks like within very short periods of time, more subtle forces of change have been working slowly, and without stopping, over millions of years. Subtle movements within the crust of the earth (the only solid part of the earth on which we stand) are responsible for the fact that when the rock layers of Cascadilla Gorge were formed, this particular place on Earth was under a saltwater sea…and near the Equator! At that time, the late Devonian Period when Earth’s first forests were developing on dry land, a huge mountain range – the Acadian Mountains – loomed to the East. Leonardo DaVinci once said “In time and with water, everything changes” and so too did rains and rivers eventually erode away that ancient mountain range. But an entire mountain range doesn’t just disappear. Sediment that eroded out of these mountains was carried by rivers, streams and rivulets into that inland sea that covered this area. Sediments were carried east, suspended in the water, and eventually settled out into the bottom of that sea. When enough of these sediment layers built up and weighed down on the layers below them, they compressed the lower layers into the sedimentary rocks we know today in the Finger Lakes region. Within these layers of the recycled Acadian Mountain range, one might find some fossilized bodies of this areas first multi-cellular inhabitants whose bodies were preserved in the layers of incoming sediment, though fossils are more common in rock layers that are higher up than the ones you see here.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Nature and Culture of Downtown Ithaca - Visual Aids