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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Balanced Rock stands in Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, CO.

In geology, rock is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.

The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. The scientific study of rocks is called petrology, and petrology is an essential component of geology.


Rock classification

The rocky side of a mountain creek near Orosí, Costa Rica.

Rocks are classified by mineral and chemical composition, by the texture of the constituent particles and by the processes that formed them. These indicators separate rocks into igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. They are further classified according to particle size. The transformation of one rock type to another is described by the geological model called the rock cycle.

Sample of igneous gabbro

Igneous rocks are formed when molten magma cools and are divided into two main categories: plutonic rock and volcanic. Plutonic or intrusive rocks result when magma cools and crystallizes slowly within the Earth's crust (example granite), while volcanic or extrusive rocks result from magma reaching the surface either as lava or fragmental ejecta (examples pumice and basalt) .[1]

Sandstone with iron oxide bands

Sedimentary rocks are formed by deposition of either clastic sediments, organic matter, or chemical precipitates (evaporites), followed by compaction of the particulate matter and cementation during diagenesis. Sedimentary rocks form at or near the Earth's surface. Mud rocks comprise 65% (mudstone, shale and siltstone); sandstones 20 to 25% and carbonate rocks 10 to 15% (limestone and dolostone).[1]

Banded gneiss

Metamorphic rocks are formed by subjecting any rock type (including previously-formed metamorphic rock) to different temperature and pressure conditions than those in which the original rock was formed. These temperatures and pressures are always higher than those at the Earth's surface and must be sufficiently high so as to change the original minerals into other mineral types or else into other forms of the same minerals (e.g. by recrystallisation).[1]

The three classes of rocks — the igneous, the sedimentary and the metamorphic — are subdivided into many groups. There are, however, no hard and fast boundaries between allied rocks. By increase or decrease in the proportions of their constituent minerals they pass by every gradation into one another, the distinctive structures also of one kind of rock may often be traced gradually merging into those of another. Hence the definitions adopted in establishing rock nomenclature merely correspond to selected points (more or less arbitrary) in a continuously graduated series.[2]

Impact on society

Rocks have had a huge impact on the cultural and technological advancement of the human race. Rocks have been used by Homo sapiens and other hominids for more than 2 million years. Lithic technology marks some of the oldest and continuously used technologies. The mining of rocks for their metal ore content has been one of the most important factors of human advancement, which has progressed at different rates in different places in part because of the kind of metals available from the rocks of a region.

The prehistory and history of civilization is classified into the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. Although the stone age has ended virtually everywhere, rocks continue to be used to construct buildings and infrastructure. When so used, rocks are called dimension stone.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Blatt, Harvey and Robert J. Tracy, 1996, Petrology, W. H. Freeman, 2nd ed. ISBN 0-7167-2438-3
  2. ^ This article incorporates text from the article "Petrology" in the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Simple English

.]] .]] A rock is a naturally occurring solid, made of minerals. The minerals in the rocks vary, making different kinds of rock. The Earth's crust is made of rock. Rock is often covered by soil or water. Rock is beneath the oceans, lakes, and rivers of the earth, and under the polar icecaps. Petrology is the scientific study of rocks.


Rock classification

Rocks are classified by their minerals and chemical make-up. The processes that formed them are also noted. Rocks may be igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. Rock types may change in a so-called rock cycle.

Igneous rocks

For the main article, see Igneous rock

Igneous rocks are formed when molten magma cools. They are divided into two main categories: plutonic rock and volcanic rock. Plutonic or intrusive rocks are made when magma cools and crystallizes slowly within the Earth's crust (example granite). Volcanic or extrusive rocks result from magma reaching the surface either as lava or ejecta (examples pumice and basalt).[1]

Sedimentary rock

For the main article, see Sedimentary rock
File:Stratigraphy of the Grand
Diagram showing the placement, age and thickness of the rock units exposed in the Grand Canyon

Sedimentary rocks are the most common rocks on Earth. They form at or near the Earth's surface. Sedimentary rock is formed in layers which were laid down one by one on top of another. Some of the layers are thin, some are thick. Layers are made by deposition of sediment, organic matter, and chemical precipitates. Deposition is followed by squeezing of sediment under its own weight, and cementation. This process is called 'consolidation': it turns the sediment into a more or less hard substance.

The approximate amounts of different kinds of sedimentary rock are:

  1. Shale (including mudstone, and siltstone): 60%
  2. Sandstones 20%.
  3. Carbonate rocks (limestone and dolorite): 15%.
  4. All others: 5%.[1][2]

Only sedimentary rocks have fossils.

Metamorphic rock

For the main article, see Metamorphic rock

Metamorphic rocks are formed by rocks coming under great pressure and high temperatures. These temperatures and pressures are found under mountains and volcanoes, especially when continental plates move together. These conditions change the make-up of the original minerals.[1]

Impact on human life

Rocks have had an impact on human life. They have been used by humans for over 2 million years. The mining of rocks for their metal has been one of the most important things in human advancement.

Other pages


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Blatt, Harvey and Tracy, Robert J. 1996, Petrology. 2nd ed, Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-2438-3
  2. "Sediment and sedimentary rocks." Sedimentary rocks.


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