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Episodes 2017; 40(4): 325-331

Published online December 1, 2017


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Tennessee “Marble”: a potential “Global Heritage Stone Resource”

Don W. Byerly1*, Susan W. Knowles2

1Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA; *Corresponding author, E-mail: donbyerly@comcast.net
2Center for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37132, USA

Correspondence to:*E-mail: donbyerly@comcast.net

Received: June 21, 2016; Revised: May 29, 2017; Accepted: May 29, 2017

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The Holston Formation aka Tennessee “marble”, though not steeped in antiquity as many European stones, has been quarried continuously in Tennessee for lime and dimension stone since colonial times in North America. The white to red, massive, coarse-grained limestone occurs as a conspicuous stratigraphic unit within the Middle Ordovician Chickamauga Group in the Valley and Ridge province of East Tennessee. The formation is a reef mass consisting mainly of bryozoan colonies, pelmatazoa and lime mudstone deposited along the hinge of a tectonically subsiding basin southeast of the reef. The mass is 100 m thick and extends along northeast-southwest trending strike belts for nearly 100 km. Though not marble in the geological sense, it is crystalline, takes a high polish, and possesses physical properties that typically surpasses those of metamorphic marble. Its chemical purity and physical properties have made it a popular choice among architects, sculptors, and chemists for over 200 years. Tennessee, along with Vermont and Georgia has always been ranked among the top three marble producers in the U.S. – in 1956 Tennessee led the United States in marble production. Tennessee “marble” has been used in sculptural work, and for major building interiors and exteriors in at least 35 USA states and Canada and continues to be used today.