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Fossil Folklore

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Introductionred arrowSt Cuthbert's Beadsred arrowStar stonesred arrowScrewstonesred arrowWorld folklorered arrowWhat are crinoids?red arrowReferences

Robert Plots illustration of probable Carboniferous Star Stones from Staffordshire
Old museum display tablet with mounted Jurassic Star Stones, some isolated and seen in plan-view and others stacked to form parts of stems and seen in side view

Star stones

Sea-lily columnals can also have a pentagonal star shape, leading to the folklore name Star Stones. The so-called isocrinids with star-like columnals are especially common in the Jurassic of Britain, although they can also be found in older and younger rocks.

Star Stones were much discussed by the Oxford academic Robert Plot. Plot (1705, p. 91) dutifully, and rather disdainfully, related how the commonfolk thought Star Stones came to be on Earth: " ...the Stones some way related to the Celestial Bodies , I descend next to such as (by the vulgar at least) are thought to be sent to us from the inferior Heaven , to be generated in the Clouds , and discharged thence in the times of Thunder and violent Showers ...". He noted that others considered their origin to be organic and somehow associated with Echinus, the sea urchin. However, Plot himself remained uncertain about their genesis.

Plot (1705, p. 87) also described a technique to separate the crinoid discs: ...they are so hard and so firmly cemented, that 'tis very difficult, if at all possible, to separate them from each other, without spoiling the Intagli or Workmanship of the Stars; these if but steeped a Night in Vinegar, or other sharp Liquor, may be divided the next Morning with Safety and Ease.