Posted by: David Gelsthorpe | January 28, 2010


I’ve been looking into some of the myths and folklore around fossils and thought I’d show you a really nice example from the collection here at the museum: a snakestone


A what stone, you might ask? Well the story goes that Abbess Hilda of Whitby Abbey rounded up the serpents that swarmed around the abbey and hurled them off the cliffs. On hitting the ground, they turned to stone.

The snakes head ammonites were of course fossils about 200 million years old. The snakes heads were carved by the Victorians, so they could make a quick buck selling them to tourists. Genuine victorian examples of snakestones are pretty rare, so we are very lucky to have one in the collection.

Whitby coat of arms

The Whitby coat of arms includes three ammonites to mark the town’s link with the myth. If you look closely the ammonites have snake’s heads.



  1. The ignorance of antiquity, with the superstitious mind, have helped to create beautiful folktales

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