Historical information

Dolomite is a mineral, calcium magnesium carbonate, with the chemical formula CaMg(CO3)2. It is a principle component of various rock types sometimes also referred to as dolomite, including dolostone, dolomitic marble and dolomitic limestone (according to the composition of each type). Dolomite rock is found in sedimentary basins throughout the world, comprising approximately 2% of the Earth's crust. It is formed when lime mud or limestone encounters groundwater containing magnesium. Dolomite can contain elements such as lead, zinc and copper. Dolomite and limestone are used in various construction, landscaping and agricultural processes.

This specimen was donated to the Burke Museum in 1868 by Alfred Selwyn as part of the Geological Survey of Victoria. It was donated to the Museum in 1868. Victoria and other regions of Australia were surveyed for sites of potential mineral wealth throughout the 19th Century. The identification of sites containing valuable commodities such as gold, iron ore and gemstones in a locality had the potential to shape the development and history of communities and industries in the area. The discovery of gold in Victoria, for instance, had a significant influence on the development of the area now known as 'the goldfields', including Beechworth; the city of Melbourne and Victoria as a whole.

Dolomite and limestone are mined at several locations in Victoria, including sites in the North-East of the state in Bindi and Limestone Creek. There are notable dolomite deposits in most Australian states. The dolomitised form of the mineral tends to come from older limestone deposits, formed during the palaeozoic era in marine settings, so this specimen may have come from a deposit located along a coastline in Victoria or another state.


The specimen is significant as an example of surveying activity undertaken to assess and direct the development of the mineral resource industries in Victoria and Australia, as well as the movement to expand human knowledge of earth sciences such as mineralogy and geology in the nineteenth century.

This specimen is part of a larger collection of geological and mineral specimens collected from around Australia (and some parts of the world) and donated to the Burke Museum between 1868-1880. A large percentage of these specimens were collected in Victoria as part of the Geological Survey of Victoria that begun in 1852 (in response to the Gold Rush) to study and map the geology of Victoria. Collecting geological specimens was an important part of mapping and understanding the scientific makeup of the earth. Many of these specimens were sent to research and collecting organisations across Australia, including the Burke Museum, to educate and encourage further study.

Physical description

Hand-sized piece of pale pink dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate) with dark grey rim and hollowed centre.