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Fossil Folklore

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Introductionred arrowNorthern Englandred arrowSouthern Englandred arrowWorld folklore 1red arrowWorld folklore 2red arrowWorld folklore 3red arrowWorld folklore 4red arrowWhat are ammonites?red arrowReferences and links

Jupiter Ammon Golden ammonite

World Folklore 1

Ammonites were familiar to the early Greeks, who likened them to coiled goat horns, regarding them as sacred symbols because of their association with the horned god, Jupiter Ammon. They were known as Cornu Ammonis - horns of Ammon - from which the scientific name 'ammonite' was later derived.

The horns of Ammon became associated with Alexander the Great when, after his conquests, he took the title Son of Ammon. Coins that appeared near the end of his reign show horns with markings on them. However, even more apparent ammonite-like features are found on coins of one of Alexander's generals, Lysimachus, to whom a kingdom was given.

Ammonites were used as protection against snakebites, as well as cures for blindness, barrenness and impotence (Bassett 1982). The notion that they would be an effective antidote for snakebites is an example of sympathetic medicine - where the cure resembles the cause of the illness.

Rudkin and Barnett (1979) relate how some Romans believed that they could predict the future if they slept with a golden (pyritised) ammonite under their pillow.