[Article]: Cephalopod Fossils: Myths and Legends (by Phil)


Extremely interesting stuff, as usual.

I wonder if powdered ammonite mightn't serve some medicinal function, depending on the mineral composition of the rock. Not in the eyes, though.

"In 1586 William Camden in his Britannia recorded stones that ‘if you break them you will find within stony serpents, wreathed up in circles, but generally without heads’."

Almost sounds like Camden got his hands on a soft-body fossil with a preserved armature, doesn't it?


Thanks very much Kevin and Clem,

Clem said:
Almost sounds like Camden got his hands on a soft-body fossil with a preserved armature, doesn't it?

It does indeed! Maybe Camden was sitting on a stash of unique ammonite fossils that have been sealed up in a vault somewhere. If we can locate his finds we may be able to solve the secret of ammonite soft-bodied morphology once and for all!

...Er.....maybe not..... :smile:

Anyway, did you know that many other fossil types have legends associated with them? For example the Utah Pahvant Indians frequently threaded trilobites into necklaces as these fossils were believed to give protection in battle and ward off evil spirits. Such specimens, usually Elrathia, were given the name shugi-pits t'schoy, meaning lizard foot bead things, or timpe khanitza pachavee, meaning little water bug like stone house in. In a similar manner to the adoption of the ammonite in Whitby in Yorkshire into the towns coat-of-arms, Dudley in the West Midlands, UK, has adopted the locally occuring Calymene trilobite onto its heraldic shield.

Some bivalve marine molluscs were known as 'Devils Toenails' due to their curved shape. Crinoid stems were recorded in seventeenth century England as 'Star-stones' due to the shape of the cross section and were believed to be of heavenly origin. Similarly, sea urchins were frequently referred to as 'Shepherd's Crowns' or 'Fairy Pillows'. As 'Fairy Loaves' these echinoderms were once believed to be loaves of bread turned to stone, but to keep one in the pantry was an omen that the owners would never be short of bread....

....one can go on...this would make a fascinating research topic, methinks.

I'm sure the Pahvants found goniatites out where they found the trilobites, but possibly just considered them "deer droppings in a rock house" (dont know the translation) and figured they didnt have medicinal or spiritual powers. :wink:

Still checking though! Have to get in touch with some of the local archaeologists I know.

Phil said:
....one can go on...

Please do :!: :smile:

I don't see any cephalopods hangin there, just trilobites
Thanks for the links, Kevin.

and check out the links (way to go TONMO and Phil)

That's a great link to see on such a prestigious site!

Kevin, if it wasn't for yourself and all the fantastic contributions from all the members, far too numerous to mention, who have contributed to 'Fossils' over the last couple of years, I'm sure we wouldn't be there.

So many thanks to you and everyone who has contributed, provided help, or just lurked and read!

:notworth: :glass:

(...we are not going away just yet!)
This is extremely interesting and I wish I'd been aware of this when I wrote the 'Myths and Legends' article as I certainly would have included it.

Just over 10,000 years ago, twenty one individuals were buried inside a cave at Burrington Combe in the Mendip Hills in south-west England. These Mesolithic burials represent the earliest known British cemetary. Interestingly, a set of ammonites were found associated with the burials.

It is, of course, easy to see any seemingly 'out-of-place' object as having ritual significance, but it is tempting to see these ammonites in such a context. Certainly our cave-dwelling ancestors thought they were worth keeping, so could possibly they have seen them in a religious vein?

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Earliest British cemetery dated

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