Questions and Answers: Millions of Years to Petrify Wood?

From Issue: R&R Volume 24 #5


Does it take millions of years to petrify wood?


Petrified wood intrigues both old and young alike. Finding a rock in the exact shape and pattern as wood brings to mind several curious questions. When did this happen? How long did it take? What caused this situation? While these (and other) questions about petrified wood are interesting, the question that pertains to the creation/evolution debate centers on how long the process takes. Those who believe in an old Earth suggest that wood petrifies over millions of years. A “fact sheet” on petrified wood found in South Dakota has this to say about the situation: “The final condition, necessary for petrification, is time. The mineral replacement process is very slow, probably taking millions of years” (Teachout, 1995).

The idea that it takes millions of years for wood to petrify, however, is patently false. As is usually the case with such geological phenomena, the actual process has very little to do with the amount of time available, but instead demands the right conditions.

Andrew Snelling has documented several instances—in the laboratory and in nature—in which wood was petrified in just a few months or years (Snelling, 1995). He also discussed the fact that Hamilton Hicks was granted a U.S. patent in 1986 for a chemical “cocktail” that can produce wood that “evidently has all the characteristics of petrified wood, including its appearance” (1995).

John Morris commented that “no informed geologist would say it takes an excessively long time” for wood to petrify. He documented one field experiment in which a block of wood was placed in an alkaline spring for a year, after which, “substantial petrification had occurred” (2004).

It does not take thousands or millions of years to petrify wood, and arguments that suggest such cannot be used to bolster the fallacious idea of an old Earth. Wood can petrify quite rapidly—a situation that certainly fits nicely into the young Earth model.


Morris, John (2004), “How Long Does It Take for Wood to Petrify?”, [On-line], URL: http://www.

Snelling, Andrew (1995), “ ‘Instant’ Petrified Wood,” [On-line], URL:

Teachout, Gerald E. (1995), “Petrified Wood of South Dakota,” [On-line], URL:


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