Thursday, September 12, 2019

Snake Stone Ammonite Fossil

On a recent visit to the Kentucky Science Center, I came upon one of my favorite fossils in their collection. The snake stone ammonite fossil was modified by an artist who carved a snake head at the opening of the spiral shell. Britain might be the origin of this one as there is a legend there that of a Catholic Saint Hilda of Whitby (614-680) who turned the snakes of the area into stone. St. Hilda is the patron saint of learning and culture and sometimes ammonite symbols represent her in academic environments.

When I was helping with curating the collections at the center, encountering this fossil triggered a sense of mysticism or superstition. Notice at one side of the ammonite the ridges are worn as if it had been carried around in someone's pocket as a good luck talisman.

The American palaeontologist Alpheus Hyatt (1838-1902) named an ammonite genus Hildoceras after her. Above image of St. Hilda memorial at Church of St. Mary, Whitby, Yorkshire, England  from Wikipedia (public domain). Note the coiled snake ammonites at her feet.

The ammonite fossil pictured in this posting appears to be a Dactylioceras tenuicostatum (Young et Bird, 1822). This animal existed in the Lower Jurassic Period (about 180 million years ago).

As of 2019, the fossil can be seen on the second floor Discovery Gallery in the hallway section leading to the polar bears and Egyptian mummy. It is part of ammonite fossil display case. Learn more at

Learn more about snake stone ammonites: