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Fossil Folklore

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Belemnites:

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Lightning
Bowling green

English Folklore

Because of their pointed shapes, it was once believed that belemnites were cast down from the heavens during thunderstorms. This gave rise to their widely used name, thunderbolts. However, belemnites are also known by many other names in folklore.

In some regions of England belemnites are known as bullets, Devil's Fingers or Saint Peter's Fingers (Bassett 1982).

Belemnites were once believed to have medicinal qualities and were used as cures for both rheumatism and sore eyes in humans and horses. The treatment for horses involved crushing the fossils into a dust that would then be blown into the animals eyes.

They were also used to keep a person from being struck by lightning or bewitched by demons from the sky (Kennedy 1976).

Oakley (1974) described a belemnite that was found with a female skeleton in a Bronze Age burial site in Yorkshire - a testament to the cult status of these fossils among prehistoric humans.

Even in modern times, belemnites hold a fascination with the public. For example, Oakley (1974) recorded an interesting exchange in 1947 between a museum curator and a local man in Peterborough. The man, a keen bowler, had found belemnites on a bowling green and was convinced that they had fallen from the sky during a thunderstorm the previous day. The curator assured him otherwise.

 

   
 
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