Fossils are the remains of animals and plants, which have been
preserved naturally. Their size can vary from entire dinosaurs
skeletons to microscopic plants and animals. They may be of
similar composition to the living tissue or be mineral
replacements. Mostly it is the hard tissue of animals and plants,
which are preserved, such as bones, shells, teeth and wood.
Occasionally burrows, eggs, footprints and nests can be petrified
and rarely soft tissues such as leaves and skin can be fossilised
too. Almost complete animals and plants have been found preserved
in amber, copal, ice, peat and tar. Amber and copal being the
resins of ancient trees.
Fossilisation takes millions of years and is a process fraught
with chance. When something dies it immediately starts to rot and
unless it is rapidly buried it will decompose before it is
fossilised. As mentioned the hard tissues last longer, but these
are often destroyed or scattered by animals or the elements. Even
if a fossil is formed it may later dissolve, be chemically altered
or be destroyed by high temperature or pressure. Only a very small
percentage of all living things are fossilised.
Fossils are formed in the strangest of places. Because of
movements of the earths crust, continental drift and varying
climates and sea levels. We find sea animal fossils in deserts and
tropical plants' fossils in frozen landscapes.
Although fossils have been observed and revered by ancient
cultures for at least ten thousand years, palaeontology; the
scientific study of fossils, began only 300 years ago.
Traditionally fossils are said to have supernatural powers,
healing powers and medicinal uses. In Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Shiy-Yen (fossilised brachiopods) (Photo) are prepared as a cure
for rheumatism, cataracts, anaemia and digestive problems. Toad
stones (fossil fish teeth) were used throughout Europe to treat
epilepsy and the effects or poisoning.
sand dollar (france)
The esoteric properties of fossils include promoting quality and
excellence, creating structures and stimulation of the thymus
gland. They also are said to promote success in business ventures.
Plant Fossils other than petrified wood, are rare because they
Ammonites, now extinct, are relatively common although good
examples are rarer. This is due to their hard shell being formed
from Aragonite sometimes with an outer layer of Mother of Pearl.
The females were always much larger than the males of the same
species, there were hundreds of different Ammonites species.
Multiple fossils are often found where animals lived together in
Ammonites were also called "snakestones" thought to be
They are believed to help people who build or design things to see
the necessary structures to make these things work. They can also
help you find structure in your own life.
) Sea Urchins, known as "Magic Stones" or
"Thunderstones" were thought to have fallen form the sky
during thunderstorms. They are said to keep evil spirits away and
prevent milk turning sour. They are often found in ancient human
The Sea Urchin Balanocidaris were known as "Jewstones"
because they were found in Ancient Judea. They have been used as
charms since at least 650BC
Sand Dollars are another type of sea urchin, which feed by lifting
sediment from the sea bed. They are unusual because they are flat
with holes through them. The food would be pushed up through these
holes and passed along towards the months.
Belemnites have been known as "thunderbolts" and were
believed to come from heaven during thunderstorms. This gave them
great protective magical powers and these are often found with
human skeletons in ancient burial mounds.
There are over 10,000 known species of Trilobites. All are marine
animals with shells made of Calcite and so resist decay. Some had
efficient eyes, some could curl up for defence and some had no
eyes living deep in the sea below the depths to which natural
Crinoids, known as "flowers of the sea", were in fact
animals. Their evolutionary descendants are featherstars, which
are still alive today.
there are some 20,000 species of fossil fish ranging in time from
500 million years ago to today.
Sharks teeth are not uncommon because sharks grow new teeth all
the time to replace old teeth, which drop out. Because they are
hard structures they may have been fossilised.
Dinosaurs are what many people think of when they hear the word
fossil. They reigned this planet for 150 million years. Mankind
has only been around for about 2 million years at most. There were
thousands of species of dinosaur, but they died out rapidly at the
end of the cretaceous period. The wonderful complete dinosaur
skeletons in the world's museums are very rare, but bits of
dinosaur bone are usually available for collectors.
It is known that less than twenty different dinosaur species
survived the cretaceous disaster that wiped out so much of life on
earth at that time. Some people believe that some of these may
still exist in remote areas of the world today.
Fossil wood is the relatively common type of plant fossil. Because
wood is the hard structure of plants, it decomposes slowly and has
a chance to be fossilised. This occurs as the tissues of the wood
are replaced by minerals and the wood becomes petrified -
literally "turned to stone". Minerals often involved in
this process include Agate, Chalcedony, Opal, and Quartz.