Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 23, 1912.djvu/69
Snakestones and Stone Thunderbolts.
centre. To this Plot adds that Camden "and since him [a certain] Dr. Childrey plainly avouch that the Ophiomorphit's of Cainsham have some of them heads, and that in this they differ from those of York-shire" of the story concerning whose heads Plot was at this time apparently ignorant.
That there are special geological reasons why this particular belief may not only be ancient but of remotest antiquity, the following account of the life-history of the ammonite (from the time of its appearance in the Devonian formation) will show:—
"It is an interesting fact that the very earliest Ammonites were straight, and gradually became closely coiled. This form was maintained almost constant throughout the vast periods of the Mesozoic age, till towards the end [in the Cretaceous period], when the whole race was about to die out, they seemed to try to go back to their original form, which some almost reached (Fig. 105), while others, as Professor Judd remarks (in a letter), "before finally disappearing, twisted and untwisted themselves, and as it were wriggled themselves into extraordinary shapes, in the last throes of dissolution." These strange forms (Figs. 96-106) are reproduced from Nicholson's Palaeontology, and there are many others. . . . The two species figured . . . from the Trias (Figs. 99, 100) may be taken as typical; but the variations in surface pattern are almost infinite."
It is certain that any chance local discovery of any such uncoiled forms as those just described would materially help to reinforce the popular belief that ammonites were petrified serpents; and it also seems impossible that in the course of centuries such discoveries should not have happened. I should, however, add, in case of misappre-