“When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” “Macbeth“ Act 1, Scene 1 2. – The Thunderstone Already the Roman scholar Pliny describes them as “Idaei dactyli” (the fingers from the mountain Ida).
Already the Roman scholar Pliny describes them as "Idaei dactyli" (the fingers from the mountain Ida). In Germany until the early 20th century people believed in the magic properties of the devil´s fingers, known also as catstones, thunderstones, wombstones or even candles of the dead. According to ancient lore these strange stones are falling from the sky and witches can use them to cause thunderstorms.
Fig.1. Conrad Gesner´s 1565 illustrations of thunderstones or Belemnites, from "De Omni Rervm Fossilivm Genere" (image in public domain).
Another myth interprets these fossils as petrified lynx urine. In fact rubbing the stone a smell of ammoniac or decomposed organic matter can be perceived, also the color of some fossils - yellow or brown, as found in the cretaceous sediments from Northern Germany - maybe explains this strange connection.
Today the belemnites are reclassified as the internal shells of extinct mollusks.
Fig.2. Belemnite from the Jurassic fossil site of Solnhofen (Germany). This fossil preserves not only the inner shell of these extinct mollusks, but also traces of soft tissue.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
My name is David Bressan and I'm a freelance geologist working mainly in the Austroalpine crystalline rocks and the South Alpine Palaeozoic and Mesozoic cover-sediments in the Eastern Alps. I graduated with a project on Rock Glaciers dynamics and hydrology, this phase left a special interest for quaternary deposits and modern glacial environments. During my research on glaciers, studying old maps, photography and reports on the former extent of these features, I became interested in history, especially the development of geomorphologic and geological concepts by naturalists and geologists.
Living in one of the key area for the history of geology, I combine field trips with the historic research done in these regions, accompanied by historic maps and depictions. I discuss broadly also general geological concepts, especially in glaciology, seismology, volcanology, palaeontology and the relationship of society and geology.