The Coal Age

TheCoal Age

TheCoal Age

TheCarboniferous Period

Geology,carboniferous period, Ammonite and the caveman are some common wordswe are confronted with every time we refer to history, read and watchsome important documentaries. Have you ever wondered what these termsdenote? Geology refers to a branch of knowledge (science) focusing onthe earth’s physical structure, history and the various processesthat act on these dimensions. In geology, the carboniferous periodrefers a geological period that lasted almost 359 to 299 millionyears ago in the late Paleozoic era (UCMP, 2015). The term“carboniferous” is an English term derived from two Latin wordscarbō(meaning coal) and ferō(I bear) in reference to the rich deposits of coal that existed inEngland during the Paleozoic era. Conventionally, the termcarboniferous means “coal bearing” and the term Carboniferousperiod is used to refer to a particular period in history which inthe United States is stratified into two conceptualizations: theMississippian (early carboniferous) and the Pennsylvanian (latecarboniferous). These two subdivisions were informed by thevariations in contents between the coal-bearing layers of Mississippiand the mostly limestone-bearing strata of Pennsylvania coming out astwo different continents. Studying the evolutionary successions inthe carboniferous is crucial to comprehending the phenomenon of coalformation and sedimentation on particular locations.

Tectonicsof the Carboniferous

Thisperiod in history referred to as carboniferous marked the formationof a single landmass called Pangea, which, according to revolutiontheory, was the father of all continents. However, this period waspreceded by merging of two large landmasses, Laurassia and Gondwana.Laurasia, which today forms the present day Northern Hemispherelandmasses drifted towards the equator to join Gondwana the presentday Southern Hemisphere landmass. This process was, however, asgradual as it was turbulent. The various collisions between the twolandmasses resulted in other smaller landmasses and process some ofwhich resulted in the formation of coal in certain specific locationsof some continents. According to UCMP (2015), the existence of coaldeposits in “certain locations of the world relative to others canonly be conceived in the context of the processes of continentalformations in the carboniferous period”.

Theimplication herein is clear: existence of coal deposits in certainlocations was never a chance or rather by accident. It has beenespoused that the Hercynian Mountains in Europe and the Appalachianregion in North America was because of a collision between Laurassiaand Gondwanaland. Moreover, it has been observed that the present daylocations of the various continents today relative to each otherreflects the zones of tectonic activity as well as the ancientmagnetic poles of the earth. During the Carboniferous period, thesurface of the earth exposed to air increased due to formation ofcrust and the plate tectonic processes. A majority of areas that werecovered by shallow seas like in the Mississippian period led to theexposure and formation of minerals such a coal owing to the swampyconditions that prevented decomposition of organic matter (Rich,1974).

Coalin Nova Scotia

Theexistence of coal in Nova Scotia can be traced back to theMississippian carboniferous in which the present day Nova Scotia wascovered by shallow seas, this region was particularly endowed with arich heritage of plant, and animal species (Rich,1974).The rich plant growth provided the organic material that ultimatelyformed coal. The organic material including leaves, tree trunks, deadanimals and roots accumulated at a higher rate than they weredecomposed by fungi, bacteria and species referred to as arthropleuraresulting in what is called peat, and fossil peat essentially is coal(Calder&amp Scotia, 1993).It is important to emphasize at this point that the existence of coalin Nova Scotia was not by chance, it is attributed to the boundaryline marking a major line along which two segments of the earth’scrust have moved. Northern and Southern Nova Scotia were once inLaurassia and Gondwana respectively before the collision of the twoland masses that resulted in the fault line (See Appendix 1).


Calder,J. H., &amp Scotia, N. (1993). Oneof the Greatest Treasures: the Geology &amp History of Coal in NovaScotia.[Halifax]: Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. Accessed on11thAugust 2015 from&lt

Rich,M. (1974). Upper Mississippian (Carboniferous) calcareous algae fromnortheastern Alabama, south-central Tennessee, and northwesternGeorgia. Journalof Paleontology,48(2),361-374.

Universityof California Museum of Paleontology UCMP (2015), accessed on 11thAugust 2015 at 1.56pm&lt

Appendix1:Formation of Coal Fields in Nova Scotia