Guatemala contains some of the most amazing stones in the Central America.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the geology of Guatemala.
Types of Rocks Found in Guatemala: A Guide to the 7 Most Common You’ll Spot
The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.
Guatemala is a wonderful place to find jade, fossilized wood, blueschist, limestone and basaltic rocks. The lush landscape resulted from much volcanic action as well as tectonic plate movement that brought up rocks from deep in the Earth.
Guatemala is a beautiful country with a volcanic history. There are 37 volcanos in Guatemala with 3 of them considered active. The record of their activity is long and there have been many many eruptions.
These volcanic centers are often visited by tourists and they are great places to search for rocks.
There are several active mining operations that are ongoing in Guatemala where they are mining gold, nickel, silver and titanium.
When searching for rocks in Guatemala consider working with local guides and be sure to collect with permission.
The most desirable rock for collectors in Guatemala is Jade. Jade is one of the oldest decorative stones and it is found in many archeological sites all over the world.
Jade is usually light green, but it can be white or yellow, it has a pearly luster with a translucent appearance. It is incredibly tough and dense.
The Jade found in Guatemala is jadeite jade. Jade is an incredibly hard stone that is tougher than steel and is generally cut with diamond blades.
Jade is generally found along faults in serpentines as this rock only forms in subduction zones where one tectonic plate is being pushed under another.
When looking for Jade in Guatemala concentrate on river beds and dry river beds. The stone may have a white, yellow, brown or black exterior. The softer limestone and basalt will erode around the jade and leave the heavy rock on the bed of rivers.
Testing for jade often comes down to the density of the rock, it is very hard, harder than marble with a hardness score of 7 to 7.5.
Fossilized wood is wood that has been mineralized. The fossilized rock in Guatemala is porous, fossilized with quartz and has a striated appearance. It may absorb water, but contains very little organic matter.
Fossilized wood can sometimes be generally cut fairly easily with a diamond lapidary saw.
Fossilized wood was found in Guatemala in ceremonial sites and it was a mystery to archaeologists for many years. Fossilized wood fragments were found in Maya sites, but geologists had not found any evidence of fossilized wood in the area.
After extensive searches the origin of the fossilized wood was found in 2019 when two areas of extensive sillicized wood were found in Las Crucitas and Saltire.
In Las Crucitas the petrified wood was discovered on private land at the foot of the Jumay volcano. The fossilized wood in Las Crucitas is somewhat harder than that found in the Saltire location.
The Saltire location is also on private land on the border between Guatemala and El Salvador.
Blueschist is a metavolcanic rock that often contains jadite. It is commonly blue, black, green or blue green and has a medium grained texture. Historically it was used to pave roads in some areas.
Blueschist is a fairly rare rock that is formed from basalt that is exposed to low temperatures and high pressure.
These rocks are formed in subduction zones and the heat increases as the depth increases creating different stones at the various depths and the conditions in Guatemala are good for producing blueschist.
Many areas of Guatemala feature karst landscapes where limestone has been shaped by the wind and water.
Limestone is formed from marine life like shells and coral reef. The limestone in Guatemala has been lifted from the sea floor by the tectonic movement and the volcanic action.
Limestone is a relatively soft stone that can be scraped with the point of a knife. It is generally light in color from light yellow to light gray the stone is found in costal areas of Guatemala.
Limestone can often contain fossils. You can identify the fossils as dark or discolored areas in the limestone. They may also form holes, tubes or indentation in the limestone.
In Guatemala there is a thick limestone crust in the Northern parts of the country. There has been much geological activity in that region resulting in faults, cracks and folds in the layers of rock there.
You can observe these in exposed rock of the Central Guatemalan Cordillera which includes the mountain range that runs through Central America.
Much of the underlying rock on Guatemala is Basalt. This volcanic rock forms when lava is extruded in a volcanic eruption and cools quickly.
Basalt is a very fine grained stone that is generally very dark in color. The rock may be porous and often contains crystals such as Olivine.
Southern Guatemala has some basalt cones that resulted from now dormant volcanoes.
Obsidian is a type of volcanic glass. There is a large deposit of very pure obsidian just outside the city limits of Guatemala.
Obsidian was used by early Mayans for sharp tools. Obsidian breaks into very sturdy sharp edges.
Obsidian tools have been recovered in Takalik Abaj and can be viewed in the National Park there.
Sandstone is a medium grained stone that is generally light brown to yellow. Visiting Quirigua you can see large sandstone carvings.
The sandstone at Quirigua is very strong and was suitable for much of the construction of the city preserved there.
The largest free standing stone sculptures in the Americas are found here and are made of sandstone.
This rock was brought in from a quarry 5 kilometers away from the site.
Rocks on Guatemala
Guatemala is home to much volcanic activity and plate movement. The resulting rocks are varied and beautiful.
The native Mayans used the plentiful Jade, obsidian and sandstone for tools and religious purposes. The reverence for these materials is still celebrated by local inhabitants of the island.
When considering collecting rocks be sure to obey any posted signs and always collect where you have been granted permission.
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