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Dimensions:
216 × 138 × 27 mm
288 pages
Format:
Hardback
ISBN:
9781789142907
Illustrations:
71 illustrations
Published:
12 Oct 2020
  • £18.00

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Dragons’ Teeth and Thunderstones The Quest for the Meaning of Fossils Ken McNamara

For at least half a million years, people have been doing some very strange things with fossils. Long before a few seventeenth-century minds started to decipher their true, organic nature, fossils had been eaten, dropped in goblets of wine, buried with the dead and adorned bodies. What triggered such curious behaviour was the belief that some fossils could cure illness, protect against being poisoned, ease the passage into the afterlife, ward off evil spirits and even kill those who were just plain annoying. But above all, to our early prehistoric ancestors, fossils were the very stuff of artistic inspiration.

Drawing on archaeology, mythology and folklore, Ken McNamara takes you on a journey through prehistory with these curious stones, and explores humankind’s unending quest for the meaning of fossils.

‘McNamara opens window after window on the use and interpretation of fossils by different cultures from Ireland to Australia over the millennia and up to the present. Through the strange mediaeval mythologies of dragons teeth, stone swallows, toadstones, thunderstones, snakestones and devil’s toenails, an even more ancient tradition is uncovered.’ — Douglas Palmer, author of 'A History of Earth in 100 Groundbreaking Discoveries' (2011)

‘A fascinating account of fossils as objects of mystical, mythological, and practical significance to ancient humans, thousands of years before written history or modern science.’ — Olivia Judson, Honorary Research Fellow at Imperial College London and author of 'Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex'


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Ken McNamara is a palaeontologist and former Director of the Sedgwick Museum at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Shapes of Time (1997) and The Star-crossed Stone (2010).

1 A Timeless Obsession
2 In the Myths of Time
3 The Stuff of Legends
4 Fashioning the Stone
5 Delighting the Mind
6 Saving the Soul
7 Protecting the Body
8 Curing the Body
9 The Dark Side
10 A Joke of Time
Epilogue

References
Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements
Index