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Rouffignac cave mammoth
Rouffignac cave mammoth

When anything prehistoric is mentioned, a very select group of creatures comes to mind. One of these is the iconic Mammoth.

Mammoth fossil deposits have been found in every continent except Australia and South America and in early Holocene deposits of North America.

The woolly, Northern, or Siberian mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) is by far the best-known of all mammoths. The permanently frozen ground of Siberia has provided many preserved carcasses for study. Mammoths discovered preserved in the Siberian permafrost were believed to be burrowing animals that avoided sunlight and died when exposed to the sun. It was thought this explained why they showed so little decay. Remains of arctic plants have been found in the digestive tracts of frozen mammoth carcasses. French adventures heading for the North Pole in 1872 found so many well-preserved mammoth specimens that for a time they lived on mammoth, ‘broiled, roasted and baked’.

Fossil mammoth ivory was previously so abundant that it was exported from Siberia to China and Europe from medieval times to today. It is estimated that over 50% of the ivory sold into China is form mammoths. Scientists can determine a mammoth’s age from the rings of its tusk in a similar way to determining a tree’s age from its rings. The mammoth’s prominent tusks were directed downward and were very long, so long that in older males they sometimes curved over each other

One of the oldest-known musical instruments is a flute made from mammoth ivory.

From the Middle Ages up to the 18th Century, many Europeans believed that the bones of mammoths and mastodons belonged to giants drowned by Noah’s flood.

Scientific evidence suggests that small populations of woolly mammoths may have survived in North America up to 7,600 years ago. In 2015, a fossil tooth indicated that a tiny population of mammoths survived on Wrangel Island, an Arctic Island located off the coast of northern Russia, as late as 4,300 years ago.

Male woolly mammoths were thought to reach shoulder heights of up to 3.5m and to weigh up to six tonnes, the size of an African elephant.

The imperial mammoth weighed over 10 tonnes and the Songhua River Mammoth of northern China weighed up to 15 tonnes. The extinct dwarf mammoth species, Mammuthus creticus, was only around 1m tall, about the size of a modern African or Asian baby elephant – and weighed 300kg.

Ancient humans in Europe, realistically depicted herds of these animals on the cave walls where they sheltered. A notable set is the Rouffignac cave . It contains over 250 engravings, cave paintings and drawings, dating back to the Upper Paleolithic. Rouffignac Cave, also known as The Cave of the Hundred Mammoths.

Many mammoths had a woolly, yellowish brown undercoat about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick beneath a coarser outer covering of dark brown hair up to 50 cm (20 inches) long. Some of the hairs on woolly mammoths could reach up to 3 feet (1 m) long, Under the extremely thick skin was a layer of insulating fat at times 8 cm (3 inches) thick.

The skull in Mammuthus was high and domelike. The ears, small for an elephant, were advantageous for an animal living in a cold climate because the smaller amount of exposed surface area reduced heat loss. A mound of fat was present as a hump on the back. Whilst the dome cannot be found in fossil remains its existence comes from cave paintings.

Mammoth teeth were made up of alternating plates of enamel and a teeth often became worn down by constant chewing motions.

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Trilobite specimen

Trilobites were sea creatures and lived in very shallow water to very deep water, although some existed on land. Most fossilised remains of trilobites are always found in rocks containing fossils of other salt-water animals such as brachiopods, crinoids, and corals. Trilobite means, “Three lobes.” referring to their body sections. They are most closely related to modern horseshoe crab and moult their exoskeleton much like crabs.

Trilobites, first appeared at the beginning of the Cambrian Period, about 542 million years ago and became quite abundant with over 20,000 variations before becoming extinct in the Permian Period about 251 million years ago.

Trilobites moved over the seabed as predators, scavengers, or filter feeders. Some swam and fed on plankton. The smallest species is Acanthopleurella stipulae with a maximum of 1.5 millimetres (0.059 in). The world’s largest-known trilobite specimen (Isotelus rex) is 72 cm. A trilobite specimen found in Arouca, Portugal is said to measure 86.5 cm (34.1 in)

All trilobites are thought to have originated from present-day Siberia but are found on all modern continents, and occupied every ancient ocean from which Palaeozoic fossils have been collected

A famous location for trilobite fossils in the United Kingdom is Dudley. This trilobite is featured on the town’s coat of arms and was named the Dudley Bug or Dudley Locust by quarrymen who once worked the now abandoned limestone quarries.

Dudley coat of arms with Trilobite in the centre
Dudley coat of arms with Trilobite in the centre

In 1698 the Welsh Historian and Reverend, Edward Lhwyd published in the oldest scientific journal in English (The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society) a letter “Concerning Several Regularly Figured Stones Lately Found by Him”. Accompanied by a page of fossils etchings. One etching featured a trilobite he found near Llandeilo which he described as “the skeleton of some flat Fish

Rev. Lhwyd and trilobite
Lhwyd image and trilobite etching

Around Carmarthen the tails (pygidia) of trilobites are so common that they were referred to as “petrified butterflies” and associated with Merlin whom has a trilobite named after him (Merlinia)

The Swedish (fjarilsstein) and the Chinese (Hu-die-shih) both mean butterfly stone and in Chinese Bien-fu-shih or bat stone.

In 1886, in the Grotte du Trilobite (Caves of Arcy-sur-Cure, Yonne, France), archaeologists discovered a trilobite fossil that had been drilled as if to be worn as a pendant 15,000 years ago. Trilobites are not found locally, so it must have been traded from elsewhere and highly prized.

Until the early 1900s the Ute Native Americans of Utah wore trilobites as amulets, which they called pachavee (little water bug). The Ute believed trilobite necklaces protect against bullets and diseases such as diphtheria. US President Thomas Jefferson possessed a trilobite as part of his famed “cabinet of curiosities” natural history collection.

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Shark fossils

sharks tooth specimen

When people consider shark fossils, it is the teeth that grab the attention. However, many other parts of their body can become fossilised, the centres of the vertebra, jaw cartilage, fins and the rostral node in a shark’s snout. The shark’s skin is made of tiny denticles which whilst part of the skin is composed of similar material to its teeth. Shark coprolites (faeces) are sometimes found.

Shark teeth

Teeth are the most popular and common shark fossil collected. The teeth preserve quite weakly due to their high level of dentin and surrounded by a very hard enamel shell. Dentin is harder and denser than bone and does not decompose easily.

Shark shed their teeth every few weeks going through anywhere between 25,000 to 50,000 in their lifetime. Just like us, sharks have teeth of varied sizes and shapes for specific purposes: crushing, grasping and cutting.

Crushing teeth are short and round for crushing mollusc shells and crustaceans.

Grasping teeth are long and pointy to grasp fish.

shark teeth for cutting
shark teeth for cutting
Shark grasping teet
Shark grasping teet

Cutting teeth are usually triangular and have serrations, like a steak knife, and are designed for cutting through bone and taking chunks out of large prey.

Fossil Shark Vertebrae

Shark skeletons are composed of cartilage and rarely survives fossilisation and complete fossilised skeletons are rare. The vertebral centra (disc shaped centres of vertebra) are the densest part of the shark skeleton and sometimes fossilise. Centra from a baby shark may only be 3mm while C. megalodon centra may be around 125mm or 150 mmm (5 or 6 inches) in size.



Shark coprolite (see our blog post Coprolite) comes in different shapes and sizes but typically has a spiral pattern on it. Like most Coprolite it can indicate what type of fish the shark has eaten by the undigested bones inside it.

Fin Spines

Some species of sharks had a spine on the leading edge of fins. Whilst more prevalent in early Palaeozoic shark species they are still found in the current day dogfish shark.

Shark Skin: Dermal Denticles

Shark skin is covered by tiny flat V-shaped scales called dermal denticles. Denticles decrease drag and turbulence, allowing the shark to swim faster and quieter.

They resemble miniature teeth, having a “root” like section, with an enamel tip sticking out. This part, made of bone, anchors the scale to the skin. Denticles are usually very small (a few millimetres) and are often missed.

Fossil Shark Cartilage

Fossilised shark cartilage is often found as broken pieces and has a unique prismatic pattern making it unmistakable when found.

Historical beliefs

When fossilised shark teeth were first discovered embedded in rocks, the Roman naturalist and author Pliny the Elder (CE 23–79) speculated that the curious triangular objects were meteorites that rained from the sky during lunar eclipses.

In the Middle Ages people believed that they were the tongues of serpents that had been turned to stone by Saint Paul. According to this fable, Saint Paul was shipwrecked on Malta and bitten by an adder. He cast a curse on all the snakes on the island, turning their forked tongues to stone. Hence, they came to be called glossopetrae, or ‘tongue stones’.

Tongue stones were highly valued objects and believed to have medicinal properties. Malta had the finest specimens and they exported large quantities. Tongue stones were thought to act as an antidote to snakebites if touched. And if dipped in a poisoned drink would reduce its effect. They were mounted in silver and worn as pendants, carried, or sewn into pockets. They were also powdered and sold as remedies for plagues, fevers, poxes, labour pains, epilepsy, and even bad breath.

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Orthoceras collection

Orthoceras are a mollusc that lived in the sea more than 400 million years ago during the Devonian period of the Palaeozoic era. They are related to our modern day squid, octopus, cuttlefish etc. All of these are predators and we can assume that Orthoceras was as well.

The name Orthoceras translates as “straight horn” due to their long and conical shell. Orthoceras came in many different sized during the Palaeozoic era. Some species were small, just a few centimetres. Endoceras specimens have been measured at 3 meters. Cameroceras was the largest of the Orthoceras which could have reached 11 meters in length!

Like many of the molluscs, the long shell is divided into segments and the Orthoceras’s body lived in the last open-ended segment at the large end of the conical shell. As the body grew and the housing segment became too small, a new segment developed and the Orthoceras moved into this segment and build a dividing wall, called the septa, grew to separate the old chamber. A tube (siphuncle) ran through each chamber along the length of the shell. The siphuncle is a tube that runs the entire length of the shell, through each of the chambers. This tube had two functions. Once filled with water, the nautiloid could force the water out, propelling itself backward with jet propulsion. By releasing the water and leaving air space, the tube could serve as a buoyancy device allowing the animal to rise and lower itself to different depths.

Orthoceras image (Wikipedia)
Orthoceras image (Wikipedia)

Orthoceras fossils are found all over the world, the largest source today is from Erfoud in Morocco

An ancient belief suggests that wearing Orthoceras daily can increase your lifespan.

Spiritual Energy

Orthoceras are believed to hold ancient knowledge and energy and by meditating with the fossil’s energy, you may feel a connection to ancient Earth and all its knowledge.

Orthoceras will activate our root chakra by grounding us down to earth with ancient energy. Getting connected to this ancient creature may be a bit challenging, but the reward is well worth it.

Chakra Root

Properties Opportunities, Wisdom, Transformation, Spiritual Awakening, Sense of Purpose, Self-Discipline, Self Discovery, Protection, Animal Communication, New Beginnings, Past Lives, Past Life Recall, Knowledge, Growth, Grounding, Connection with Nature

Planets Earth, Elements, Earth

Colours Silver, Grey, Black

Hardness 3 to 4

Chemical Formula CaCO3

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Goniatites and Ammonites

goniatite specimen

Ammonites and Goniatites are both Ammonoids and are similar see the link for mor information Ammonite Goniatids, informally goniatites, are ammonoid cephalopods from the Middle Devonian some 390 million years ago (around Eifelian stage). Goniatites (goniatitids) survived the Late Devonian extinction to flourish during the Carboniferous and Permian only to become extinct at the end of the Permian some 139 million years later.

Ammonoid cephalopod with ammonitic sutures. Photo courtesy of Pamela Gore.
Ammonoid evolution courtesy of Pamela Gore.

One of the way to tell them apart are the suture lines which are visible on the edge of the fossil. The goniatite suture lines are a lot less complex “wavy and sort of sharp than the ammonite’s complex suture lines that often appear to look like plant-shaped patterns. They both have a ventral siphuncle, this is specific for all the ammonoids (this includes: Bactrites, Goniatites, Ceratites, Ammonites)

suture lines
suture lines

Goniatites are only found in the Palaeozoic and Ammonites only in the Mesozoic

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Devils Toenail Gryphaea

Gryphaea, common name devil’s toenails, is a form of extinct oyster. These fossils range from 200 million years ago to the Triassic to mainly the Jurassic period and are common in many parts of Britain.

These oysters lived on the seabed in shallow waters, in large colonies. The complete fossils consist of two articulated valves: a larger gnarly shaped shell (the “toenail”) and a smaller, flattened shell, the “lid”. The soft parts of the animal occupied the cavity between the two shells. The shells also feature prominent growth bands. The larger, curved shell sat within the mud on the sea floor

The bivalve Gryphaea was nicknamed the Devil’s Toenail because its of its curved shape, marked with prominent growth bands. This resembles a thick toe with a toenail. It was believed these were made as the Devil clipped his toenails and were believed to cure arthritic joint pains.

Mary Anning discovered many Gryphaea when she was foraging for fossils on the beaches around Lyme Regis. Devil’s toenails are particularly common in the Lower Jurassic rocks around Scunthorpe. Iron ore was quarried locally and across the midlands (Northamptonshire to Warwickshire) and it is quite common to find Gryphaea in the quarries. In 1936 Scunthorpe’s coat of arms included two Gryphaea.

Scunthorpe coat of arms
Scunthorpe coat of arms

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Lucky Pigs

lucky pig

A pig represents luck, overall good fortune, wealth, honesty, general prosperity, symbolizing a hardworking, a peace-loving person, a truthful, generous, indulgent, patient, dependable, trusting, sincere, giving, sociable person with a large sense of humour and understanding.

Pigs are considered incredibly lucky creatures at birth. They are always well fed and allowed their ways. That is why many Chinese families look upon sons born under the zodiac of the Pig as having been fortunate. They always have someone or other taking care of them.

Pigs are also said to be a sign of virility. Prominently displayed in the bedrooms of couples trying for children. This is said to be a natural offshoot of the fact that Pigs always have a huge litter of children.

In Germany they say “Glücksschwein,” which translates to lucky pig. Pig decorations and illustrations on good luck and best wishes cards are common in Germany especially around December and New Year. Candy and Marzipan pigs symbolises wishes of prosperity and luck.

In Norwegian the term “heldiggris” is very common and translates to “lucky pig.” In Swedish it is “tur gris,” Danish it is “heldig gris,” Iceland they say “heppinn svín.”

Pigs are associated with wealth and pig charms attract money and good luck. The worldwide symbol of money is piggybank and is a sign of caring for the financial future.

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals” Winston Churchill.

Tigers Eye

A stone of protection, Tiger’s Eye may also bring good luck to the wearer. It has the power to focus the mind, promoting mental clarity, assisting us to resolve problems objectively and unclouded by emotions. Particularly useful for healing psychosomatic illnesses, dispelling fear and anxiety.

Tiger Eye can stabilise mood swings, imbues us with willpower, purpose, courage and self-confidence, and releases tension.

Ancient Egyptians transformed Tiger’s Eye into jewellery believing it provided the wearer with luck and protection. Roman soldiers wore it to maintain bravery during battle. The ancient Chinese were also fascinated by this stone’s golden aura, as it was thought to bring good luck.

Not only can it aid in positively overcoming low confidence to strengthen relationships with the self, but it can lend a hand to finances and money. For those who struggle with self-worth and who roll up money woes. Tiger’s Eye works to unravel these limiting beliefs and to clear away toxic energy around the things in life to keep people feeling secure.

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All about Coprolite

Coprolite selection
Coprolite selection

A coprolite is fossilised faeces (poo!). The fossils we are familiar with are called “body fossils.”  Coprolites are called trace fossils because they give us clues to the creature’s diet. The name Coprolite is derived from the Greek words kopros, meaning “dung” and lithos, meaning “stone”. Coprolites may range in size from a few millimetres to over 60 cm!

The famous fossil hunter Mary Anning noticed as early as 1824 that “bezoar stones” were often found in the abdominal region of ichthyosaur skeletons. She also noted that if such stones were broken open, they often contained fossilized fish bones and scales as well as sometimes bones from smaller ichthyosaurs. It was these observations that allowed the geologist William Buckland to propose in 1829 that the stones were fossilized faeces and named them coprolites.

Coprolites are different from paleofaeces which are fossilised dung. Like other fossils, coprolites have had much of their original composition replaced by mineral deposits such as silicates and calcium carbonates. Paleofaeces, on the other hand, retain much of their original organic composition and can be reconstituted to determine their original chemical properties, though in practice the term coprolite is also used for ancient human faecal material in an archaeological context.

How do you know if it is genuine Coprolite and not just a stone ?

Firstly, like all fossils and gemstones acquire your specimens from a reputable supplier.

When Palaeontologists look for coprolite specimens, they look at least three things:

Composition Coprolites usually contain a lot of calcium phosphate and were once used as fertiliser. The phosphate was a critical component of the explosives used in munitions during the first world war.  

Another identifier is shape, there are several classic coprolite shapes which assist in identification. However, being a natural product there is always the potential for it to be deformed by other animals or the elements.

Classic Coprolite shapes
Classic Coprolite shapes

The shapes used to classify coprolites from the top left to right:  cylindrical coprolite with constant diameter, cylindrical with pinched ends, bulbous coprolite, two round coprolites, round-bulbous, round-cylindrical, cylindrical-bulbous and cylindrical-bulbous from

Associated fossils other fossils found in the same area, indicate the past presence of organisms and may be clues to what creature originally produced the coprolite. Sometimes, coprolites are found near the fossilised remains of the actual animal itself.

Geological. Fossils are typically preserved under sediments. However, a very dry environment or extreme cold can also preserve it.

The layers of the ground (stratigraphy) where the Coprolite was found also must be the same where the creature that created it lived. For example, you should not be able to find vertebrate coprolite in a Precambrian layer because this was formed before vertebrates were known to exist

By studying (ichnology) the physical composition of coprolites, palaeontologists (or Scatologists) can deduce if the animal that produced it was most likely a carnivore, herbivore or omnivore. Trace particles can show what an animal ingested. Seeds, bones, spores, pollen, wood, grass, leaves, even micro organisms and parasites, can be preserved within coprolite.

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Belemnites are members of an extinct form of cephalopods that lived from the 250-201 million years ago becoming extinct around the same time as dinosaurs (~66 million years ago). These cephalopods were common in the ancient oceans. Belemnite comes from the Greek word “belemnon” which means javelin or dart referring to their bullet-shaped rostrum that survives in fossils

Belemnites were squid-like animals with ten arms (not tentacles like modern squids) each lined with 30-50 curved hooks which were used for grasping prey such as small fish, molluscs and crustaceans.

Like other Coleoidea (a superclass that includes octopus, squid and cuttlefish), belemnites had beaks, ink sacs and a tail fin. Whilst there are similarities between belemnites and modern squids, squids do not have rostrums. The rostrum provides support and acts as a counterbalance to the rest of the body. At the base of the rostrum is the phragmocone, a conical structure with chambers that controlled buoyancy and balance. The largest belemnite known, Megateuthis elliptica, had a rostrum of 60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 in).

The rostrum is composed of calcite, a carbonate mineral. A cross section through the rostrum shows concentric rings like what you would find inside a tree; each ring is thought to represent a few months.

Sometimes rock outcrops are filled with hundreds of rostra these have been nicknamed “belemnite battlefields”. The most common explanation is that belemnites died shortly after spawning, much like modern coleoids which migrate from the ocean to the shelf area.

Because of their shape, it was once believed that belemnites fell to earth during thunderstorms and as a result are referred to in folklore as ‘thunderbolts’ or ‘thunderstones’.

In the Egyptian Temple at Karnak hieroglyphics images representing belemnites are shown to one side of the fertility God Min to symbolise lightning.

Min at Karnak
Min at Karnak

During the middle ages a belemnite was believed to protect the owner from being bewitched or struck by lightning.
In Germanic folklore, keeping thunderstones within the home would protect the owner’s house form a storm. In parts of the Netherlands these ‘donderstenen’ or ‘Donar’s stones’ (Donar being the Thunder god) were kept in the roof.
In Lithuania to treat a snakebite, they would rub a belemnite over the wound whilst chanting the words:

“Three times nine times comes Perkunas’ thunder from the sea
Three times nine times bullets strike the swelling under the stone.
This man regains the health he enjoyed before!”

In parts of western Scotland, they were known as ‘bat’ or ‘bot’ stones and were steeped in water given to horses to cure distemper. Similarly in Southern England it was widely believed that belemnites could be used to cure rheumatism and sore eyes in both men and horses. This treatment involved grinding the fossil into a dust which was then blown into the afflicted eyes.

In Scandinavian folklore belemnites were believed to be candles belonging to pixies and elves. In some areas they are still referred to as ‘vateljus’ which translates as ‘gnomes’ lights’. Throughout Europe it was widely believed that belemnites were the points of pixie-arrows and were sometimes referred to as ‘elf-bolts’.).

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The fossilised remains of ammonites were given the name snakestones in England because they resemble coiled snakes turned to stone. The myth about snakestones came mainly from two places where ammonites are very common and easy to find: Whitby in Yorkshire and Keynsham in Somerset

William Camden, an early cartographer (map maker)  mentioned what we now call ammonites in his 1586 book Britannia,’If you break them you find within stony serpents, wreathed up in circles, but eternally without heads.’ 

During the Victorian era some collectors and dealers played on this legend by carving snake heads on ammonite fossils and selling them for a premium.

Saint Hilda’s spell

Whitby has a strong link with fossils especially ammonites and jet. This link extends back to the 7th CE and the story of the Saxon Abbess, Saint Hilda (614-680). The legend states that St Hilda was ordered to build an Abbey in Whitby. However, the ground was infested with snakes. In the early Christian times, preaching always referred to snakes as being of the Devil (e.g. Adam and Eve and the apple). Naturally, before the Abbey could be built the ground had be cleared and sanctified.

Oddly for a Saint she cast a spell (not a prayer!) that turned all the snakes to stone and she threw them off the cliff tops.

St hilda monument
St Hilda with snakes at her feet

Named in honour of St Hilda, Hildoceras bifrons is one of the most common ammonites present at Whitby. This example has a carved snake’s head.

St Hilda’s miraculous work was immortalised in the poem Marmion, by Sir Walter Scott:

When Whitby’s nuns exalting told,
Of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When Holy Hilda pray’d:
Themselves, without their holy ground,
Their stony folds had often found.

St Cuthbert’s Curse

Whitby’s snakestones sometimes involve St Cuthbert who was a monk in the 7th century CE. Allegedly his rosary was made of fossil crinoids (St Cuthbert’s beads).
St Cuthbert curse is an alternative to St Hilda as ‘He is said to have cast a powerful beheading curse on all of the snakes.’

St Keyna’s prayers and fossil fairies

According to legend, Saint Ceyna (Keyne) one of the daughters of King Brychan of Brycheiniog (Brecon) having decided to become the equivalent of a modern nun and live the life of celibacy, she wanted to find a deserted place to follow her lifestyle and dedicate her time her religion. She travelled across the Severn to a wooded place and asked the local Prince for permission to stay and practice her religion. The Prince gave her permission but warned her that the area was so infested with snakes that nothing could life there. She said that with her beliefs it would be resolved and lay down dedicating the ground to the Holy Virgin. The serpents and vipers were then turned into stones. The place mentioned is Camden, near Keynsham, Bristol .

Horns of Ammon

The Ancient Greeks saw ammonites as sacred symbols associated with their horned god, Jupiter Ammon. They called them Cornu Ammonis (horns of Ammon). This is naturally the stem of the name “ammonite”
They believed Ammonites provided protection from snakebites and cures for blindness, barrenness and impotence.

The Ancient Romans believed that sleeping with a golden (pyritised) ammonite from Ethiopia under their pillow could help the dreamer predict the future.

Vishnu’s chakra

In Hindu culture, black limestone containing ammonites are known as saligrams (or shaligrams or salagramas) and considered extremely precious for their resemblance to the disc (chakra) held by the god Vishnu.

The stones are kept in temples, monasteries and households as natural symbols of the god Vishnu and are used during marriages, funerals and housewarmings.

Vishnu’s chakra is a Hindu symbol of absolute completeness. The eight spokes are believed to represent the eightfold path of deliverance. The radial chakra markings in saligrams are formed by the ribs of the ammonites.

Saligrams are mentioned in Sanskrit texts dating back to just over 2,200 years ago. Some Sanskrit poetical works identify them as fossils created by a kind of worm. True saligrams are found only in the valley of the Gandaki River in Nepal and northern India. Typically spherical, they contain black-coloured ammonite fossils from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Light coloured, broken or sharp specimens are regarded as unlucky.

Horn Stones

In Chinese folklore, ammonites were called Jiaoshih or horn stones, as they resemble coiled rams’ horns. Eleventh-century Chinese scientist and stateman Su Sung wrote in Pen Tshao Thu Ching:
‘The stone-serpent appears in rocks which are found beside the rivers flowing into the southern seas. Its shape is like a coiled snake with no head or tail-tip. Inside it is empty. Its colour is reddish-purple. The best ones are those which coil to the left. It also looks like the spiral shell of a conch. We do not know what animal it was which was thus changed into stone.’