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Fossil Folklore

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Echinoids:

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Flint handaxe from Middle Gravels of Swanscombe in Kent incorporating a Cretaceous echinoid

Early human cultures

Prehistoric stone artefacts occasionally contain fossil echinoids. A flint scraper featuring an echinoid is known from an Acheulian site (100,000 years before present) in a Pleistocene river gravel at Saint-Just des-Marais (Oakley 1971). The artisan responsible for working this flint may have favoured it over normal flints because of the echinoid with its distinctive markings.

In an Early Bronze Age burial site on Dunstable Downs, north of London, one hundred Cretaceous echinoids were discovered ceremonially arranged in a circle around the skeletons of a woman and child. The use of these fossils in such a context points to them being according spiritual significance and possibly indicates that they were considered to have a value in the after-life.

A flint echinoid mounted in bronze was found in a Roman Iron Age grave in Denmark (Oakley 1974), showing that fossil echinoids were used as amulets very early on. In England, a flint echinoid was found in a pottery bowl along with a portion of a Neolithic flint axehead, from an Early Iron Age cremation site in Southborough, near Tunbridge Wells. Oakley (1974) suggested that echinoids were important elements of Romano-Celtic religious beliefs.

Fossil echinoids are also associated with early human cultures outside Europe. Perforated Cretaceous echinoids, apparently used in necklaces, have been found at a Neolithic site in Algeria (Lebrun 2000).

 

   
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