News of Research at the Institute:GENEALOGY OF THE CRINOLINE… ‘Byproducts and Snakestones’

Among byproducts of research into the cultural imagination of the fossil, two intriguing counter-mythologies emerge. Short of funds for a full research trip, the Institute purchased the fossil pictured in the previous post on ebay. While able to confirm the Jurassic status of the specimen, the Institute were unable to verify the Whitby provenance claimed for this especially large ammonite – compare its size with that of a full grown green dinosaur. What nevertheless emerges from Whitby correspondents, however, is a charming myth designed to explain the history of the fossil record. Local legend in Whitby saw the many ammonites to be found there as petrified snakes, snakes that were part of an infestation terminated by the mighty St Hilda, who turned the snakes into stone so as to make way for her abbey. There are, accordingly, three snakestones in the heraldic blazon of Whitby:

Whitby Coat of Arms

Hilda herself is sometimes represented as a fossil botherer:

St. Hilda
(To be continued.)