Once upon a time…30 Million years ago…a large “Turtle” had lunch – and left a little something behind. Yes, we have fossilized Turtle poop! The name Coprolite is derived from the Greek words κόπρος (kopros, meaning ‘dung’) and λίθος (lithos, meaning ‘stone’). They were named by William Buckland in 1829. Prior to this they were known as “fossil fir cones” and “bezoar stones”. They serve a valuable purpose in paleontology; providing direct evidence of the what extinct organisms were eating and where. Much of the organic compounds have been replaced over the centuries with minerals, making them very “rock like”.
Manufactured about 1920 by “The Richards Glass Company Ltd.” of Montreal & Toronto, these vintage Glass Eye Pipettes would have been used for prescription eye drops. Before the days of mass-produced plastics and even before the time of off-the-shelf bottles with built in droppers, these medical tools were not common in a household, but very necessary to treat ocular ailments. These particular specimens have never been used and even the boxes are in great condition.
About the same age as the Coprolite above, this fossilized Sand Dollar (Echinodermata: Clypeasteroida) was once a living creature in the ocean – a type of burrowing sea urchin. The Sand Dollar is an architectural marvel of the natural world; possessing a rigid skeleton (called a test) which consists of calcium carbonate plates arranged in a fivefold radial pattern. At the time this specimen lived, it would have existed on top of the sea bed, rather than burrowing into it as today’s descendants do.
The Viking Sunstone…
Icelandic Spar, a form of the mineral crystal Calcite (calcium carbonate – CaCO3) is more famously known as the Viking Sunstone. Believed to be an early tool used by the Vikings on their voyages across the sea, this unique, transparent crystal is noted for it’s unusual “double refraction” of light – making it visible in overcast, foggy or dusk conditions. The crystal itself forms in rhombs; naturally occurring blocks ranging in size from handheld to as large as 35 pounds! Ancient sunstones have been found in Churches, graves and even a 16th century English warship (well after the invention of the magnetic compass).
From the Icelandic saga “Rauðúlfs þáttr” (Thorsteinn Vilhjalmsson translation):
The weather was thick and snowy as Sigurður had predicted. Then the king summoned Sigurður and Dagur (Rauðúlfur’s sons) to him. The king made people look out and they could nowhere see a clear sky. Then he asked Sigurður to tell where the sun was at that time. He gave a clear assertion. Then the king made them fetch the solar stone and held it up and saw where light radiated from the stone and thus directly verified Sigurður’s prediction.
- Cheeky Birdies…
- Recently acquired from an old Museum collection in France (c.1850), a grouping of five Chestnut Cheeked Starlings – found in the region of South Asia. These preserved specimens are referred to as “Skin Samples” – prepared to preserve the shape and body covering as opposed to mounting them for display. This actually makes them a more valuable as a curiosity since these are actually scientific study pieces!