What is this thing?
July 15, 2018 6:21 PM   Subscribe

What is this thing? I have had it for about 30 years and have no idea what the heck it is. Pics and story under the fold.

Years ago I went to Rochester Hamfest (amateur radio, not the meat) with my dad. They always had a massive flea market with people selling electronics, surplus stuff, and a lot of weird junk. One of the small vendors had a table covered in random crap and The Thing. We debated what it could be, then moved on. We never asked the vendor for some reason... they were busy with someone else or something. Anyways, at the end of hamfest all the vendors had left, and sitting alone in the middle of the parking lot was The Thing.

So, as one does with such mysterious things, I took it home and it has sat on my mantle piece ever since. Any one know what it is? After 30 years no one has been able to figure it out. Why is it set on a pedestal? What is it? Where did it come from?
posted by fimbulvetr to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be a fulgurite?
posted by The otter lady at 6:43 PM on July 15, 2018 [8 favorites]

Maybe it is just a piece of art. You've aced it for these years.
posted by AugustWest at 6:59 PM on July 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It has old, dried up lichen on one side of it, so it appears to be something that was outside for a long time before it was found and mounted. Maybe with just the lichen side exposed?
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:05 PM on July 15, 2018

I was going to suggest coprolite but I like Otter Lady’s suggestion better and it makes sense, too. I imagine a ham radio operator might have a large antenna that could get struck now and again. They turned it into an art sculpture!
posted by amanda at 7:42 PM on July 15, 2018

A burl?
posted by fussbudget at 7:43 PM on July 15, 2018

Response by poster: Definitely not a burl .. it isn’t wood.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:06 PM on July 15, 2018

I'm fairly certain that's a calcareous sponge, based on the texturing of the sides and the opening (osculum) on top. Could be either recent or fossil. Is it light & porous, or dense & heavy?
posted by wps98 at 8:25 PM on July 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dense and heavy, and there are embedded rocks and stuff in the stone matrix.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:36 PM on July 15, 2018

My first thought was that somebody once Thought that it was frozen lightning or a fossil something. But that doesn’t mean it is.

Me, I think it’s great you kept it and displayed it for 30 years but maybe it’s just an interesting lump of Earth, and that’s why it was left in a parking lot long ago...

Nice lichens too. I would call it a lichen rock.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:40 PM on July 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's a Chinese Scholar's Rock.
posted by Toddles at 9:58 PM on July 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Remember that scene from Joe Dirt?
posted by TheNegativeInfluence at 11:01 PM on July 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Makes me think of a small termite mound. I can't find a better image, but I've seen similar mounts in natural history collections and the description fits.
posted by pendrift at 11:47 PM on July 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm fairly certain that's a calcareous sponge, … either recent or fossil.

I think fossil sea sponge is right. Check out this example.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:10 AM on July 16, 2018

Response by poster: It doesn't look like a fossil... it is a conglomerate of a wide variety of small rocks and pebbles.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:12 AM on July 16, 2018

Response by poster: It does look a lot like a sponge though, what with the shape and hole.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:13 AM on July 16, 2018

If it's a calcareous or siliceous sponge it was likely growing in a high-energy environment like a forereef, in which case it wouldn't be unusual to find it imbedded in conglomerate. Fossil photos on the internet are going to have the surrounding material cleaned off as much as possible. The one side with lichens suggests that side was exposed in an outcrop. If it was from the Rochester area, there are a lot fossils around there from the mid-Paleozoic, when there were a lot of reefs with sponges.

These seem pretty similar to the Thing:


posted by wps98 at 8:46 AM on July 16, 2018

Trot it in to the geology department at the nearest university and ask whether it's a fossilized sponge or lightning-strike pottery.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:27 AM on July 16, 2018

That looks like slag to me.
posted by adiabatic at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2018

Looks like part of an animal burrow. Where they compact the earth around the inside of the tunnels instead of carrying it out. (You don't see giant mounds of dirt outside of burrows that are near enough to be the volume of the burrow. This might leave an area of compacted earth that with weather became even more solid. Then it was dug up or eroded out.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:20 PM on July 16, 2018

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