Hi, I found these items in Camberley, Surrey a few years ago and I'd appreciate any comments you have.
Fossil 1 seems to be a piece of flint that has been shaped/knapped in antiquity, indeed I was told this by someone at a museum I took it to soon after finding it - though I forget what the fossil is! My question is whether there is much evidence that fossils were treated this way in the distant past, considered special enough to be thought of as things worth keeping and making souvenirs of.
Fossil 2, if it is a fossil, seems to be a shell or tooth embedded in flint. It is strange as it doesn't appear to be fossilised as such, although it is definitely embedded rather than stuck on, and it doesn't seem to be part of the flint either - the difference in the colours and textures are more obvious in real life than in the photos. Perhaps it is a nodule or concretion of some kind? On the other side of the flint (not visible in the photos) are faint parallel lines which appear to be an unrelated fossil impression.
The pictures on this site upload in the opposite order to which they are uploaded. By the picture names:
Fossil 2 is part of an Inoceramus bivalve shell in matrix.
Fossil 1 is not a sponge. It is the cast of an echinoid spine, Tylocidaris clavigera formed in the upper chalk. The flint has not been "shaped" by humans, it naturally weathered to the way it is. I can tell this because there are no scars on the specimen which are present from being struck repeatedly from another object.
Many thanks for your replies. The person I mentioned who thought Fossil 1 had been chipped into shape by human hands was a staff member of what was then the Geological Museum, but I agree it looks rather weathered for that. However, is there any evidence that fossils were ever kept or made into artifacts or adornments by prehistoric man? Thanks.
To prehistoric man, fossils such as echinoids had “spiritual” or “religious” significance. This is demonstrated by the discovery of nearly 100 chalk echinoids surrounding the bodies of a mother and child in an early Bronze Age tumulus on the Dunstable Downs (now the golf course if you know of it).
I went to a lecture by Dr. Kenneth McNamara (Director of Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge) about this subject and I highly recommend sending him a message or visiting him.
There are a few examples of flint tools which have fossils embedded in them but these are not common. There is a photo of a half-finished hand axe on the website (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/earth/fossils/fossil-folklore/fossil_types/echinoids02.htm) with a Conulus echinoid in it. It is thought to have been discarded due to damaging the echinoid when knapping one side and then the person thought it would be of no significance as knapping the other side would remove the other half of the echinoid. Fascinating to think about.
There is lots of more recent folklore over the past few hundred years which is shown in the book “Formed Stones”, Folklore and Fossils by Michael G Bassett.
All the best,