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On the blog: Nagase on fossils and geological time in second finished stone

August 27, 2013
by Masayuki Nagase

Badlands Tapestry Garden stone #8 continues with the theme of geological time that I began with in stone #9. Inspired by the vastness of geological time and the ongoing evolution and continuation of life, I wanted to explore the enormous changes that occurred when the land of this region rose higher and the water receded.

I studied the late Eocene and Oligocene periods when the arising of mammals began, roughly 26 to 32 million years ago. I was reflecting on the brief length of one human being's life span compared to millions of years of evolution.  I was so impressed with the richness of the fossils that showed the evidence of previous life forms, not from the sea but from the land. This design explores the evolution of a variety of species of mammals in this dramatic change in the stream of life.

For the design, I selected a number of fossils to work with that are commonly found in the White River Badlands foundation. The fossils include: the three-toed horse or Miohippus; Metamynodon distantly related to the rhinoceros or hippotamus; Protoceras a deer-like early mammal; and the hog-like Merycoidodontoidea or Oreodonts. I also included the fossil patterns based on turtles that were found in this region about 30 million years ago.

All of the above fossils are continually being found and studied in South Dakota's Badlands and excellent examples are at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology's Geology Museum. The Badlands Visitor Center at Cedar Pass also has well designed educational exhibits that show prototypes of these early mammals.

As an artist, the richness of the Badlands continually inspires me as it reveals the profound history of the earth and nature. The fossils gave me an impression of life transforming with the ever-changing environment. I was struck with how life strived to evolve and adapt. I also felt deeply the nature of impermanence through the continuous transformation.

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