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Diorite



 Diorite (pronounced /ˈdaɪəraɪt/) is a grey to dark grey intermediate intrusive igneous rock composed principally of plagioclase feldspar (typically andesine), biotite, hornblende, and/or pyroxene. It may contain small amounts of quartz, microcline and olivine. Zircon, apatite, sphene, magnetite, ilmenite and sulfides occur as accessory minerals.[1] It can also be black or bluish-grey, and frequently has a greenish cast. Varieties deficient in hornblende and other dark minerals are called leucodiorite. When olivine and more iron-rich augite are present, the rock grades into ferrodiorite, which is transitional to gabbro. The presence of significant quartz makes the rock type quartz-diorite (>5% quartz) or tonalite (>20% quartz), and if orthoclase (potassium feldspar) is present at greater than ten percent the rock type grades into monzodiorite or granodiorite.

Diorites may be associated with either granite or gabbro intrusions, into which they may subtly merge. Diorite results from partial melting of a mafic rock above a subduction zone. It is commonly produced in volcanic arcs, and in cordilleran mountain building such as in the Andes Mountains as large batholiths. The extrusive volcanic equivalent rock type is andesite.

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Historic use of diorite

 Diorite is an extremely hard rock, making it difficult to carve and work with. It is so hard that ancient civilizations (such as Ancient Egypt) used diorite balls to work granite. Its hardness, however, also allows it to be worked finely and take a high polish, and to provide a durable finished work. Thus, major works in diorite tend to be important.

One comparatively frequent use of diorite was for inscription, as it is easier to carve in relief than in three-dimensional statuary. Perhaps the most famous diorite work extant is the Code of Hammurabi, inscribed upon a 2 metre (7 ft) pillar of black diorite. The original can be seen today in Paris' Musée de Louvre[2]. A few large statues remain, including several statues of King Khafre in the Egyptian Museum. The use of diorite in art was most important among very early Middle Eastern civilizations such as Ancient Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria and Sumer. It was so valued in early times that the first great Mesopotamian empire -- the Empire of Sargon of Akkad -- listed the taking of diorite as a purpose of military expeditions.

Although one can find diorite art from later periods, it became more popular as a structural stone and was frequently used as pavement due to its durability. Diorite was used by both the Inca and Mayan civilizations, but mostly for fortress walls, weaponry, etc. It was especially popular with medieval Islamic builders. In later times, diorite was commonly used as cobblestone; today many diorite cobblestone streets can be found in England, Guernsey and Scotland, and scattered throughout the world in such places as Ecuador and China. Although diorite is rough-textured in nature, its ability to take a polish can be seen in the diorite steps of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, where centuries of foot traffic have polished the steps to a sheen.  

Occurrence

Diorite is a relatively rare rock; source localities include Sondrio, Italy; Thuringia and Saxony in Germany; Finland; Romania; Northeastern Turkey; central Sweden; Scotland; the Andes Mountains; the Isle of Guernsey; and the Basin and Range province and Minnesota in the USA.

An orbicular variety found in Corsica is called corsite.

See also

References

  1. ^ Blatt, Harvey and Robert J. Tracy (1996) Petrology, W. H. Freeman, 2nd edition, p. 53 ISBN 0-7167-2438-3
  2. ^ The Louvre: Law Code of Hammurabi
 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Diorite". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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