Tech UPTechnologyAre there fossils that heal?

Are there fossils that heal?

It may seem unbelievable, but until well into the 20th century, fossil bones of vertebrates were believed in some places to have healing properties. For example, in Cyprus the locals believed that the fossil bones of dwarf hippopotamuses had actually belonged to Saint Fanorio and, like any self-respecting saint, had medicinal properties. Of course they did not use them for any type of prayer or to carry them hanging in a bag. The Cypriots crushed the fossils , dissolved the resulting powder in water and drank it. According to popular wisdom, this potion had the ability to cure various diseases. Like the Chinese, who also attributed extraordinary healing powers to fossilized bones, although this time the tradition said that they came from dragons .

Although they look alike in their outward appearance, the Chinese dragon is very different from the European dragon. In China it is a heavenly and kind animal but, like its European cousin, it is terrible when it gets angry. For the Chinese, the dragon, symbol of the emperor, lives in the clouds and is the bearer of rain. His year, the Year of the Dragon, which occurs once every 12 years, is particularly lavish.

“Dragon teeth” ( long chi ) and “dragon bones” ( long gu ) have long been part of the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia and can still be found in your pharmacies. It is ironic. Sometimes we can hear some ‘alternative’ doctors singing the praises of traditional Chinese medicine, with thousands of years of practice, they say, as a counterpoint to Western medicine. I guess they are not referring to fossil bone potions…

According to Chinese medical wisdom, we can find his teeth and bones on the ground because he has been unable to climb to heaven due to lack of clouds. If we collect them quickly we can use them to cure a large number of diseases. The bones, for example, are used for heart, kidney, intestine and liver problems, they are prescribed to treat everything from constipation to nightmares, passing through epilepsy and they are eaten fried in fat, cooked in rice alcohol or raw – Can you imagine eating a dry stone?  Anyway. Chinese medicine stuff…

On the island of Malta it is quite easy to find petrified shark teeth, known in ancient times as glossopetreas or petrified tongues. The origin of this name is found in a legend related to the apostle Paul who, landing on the coast of Malta, was bitten by a viper . Enraged, he cursed the Maltese snakes so that their forked tongues turned to stone. The glossopetreas were already known long before, by the people of the bronze age, who collected them and used them to make incisions in clay pots for decorative purposes. Due to the origin attributed to them, the glossopetreous were supposed to have magical properties. For what they were, snake tongues, an amulet was seen in them that protected against poisons and poisons . 

And from a talisman, in the Middle Ages they became capable of neutralizing poisons. To protect one of its effects, he only had to dip the glossopetrea in the suspicious concoction . Its use was so widespread that until well into the 18th century the so-called tongues were manufactured, tree-shaped bags where the glossopetreous were hung. That way they were always close at hand. Taking into account the widespread custom of eliminating enemies by poisoning them, the glossopetreas were highly coveted. Although sometimes I wonder what the Borgias and their imitators would laugh at the poor fools who, despite using them, ended up raising mallows. 

Of course, not everyone believed in the legend of the tongues of Saint Paul. Another belief, more picturesque, is that offered by the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder. In their Natural History they found them rather similar to the human tongue. He thought that they fell from the sky during lunar eclipses and he said that the magicians believed them to be very useful in amorous undertakings . They were also equated with prehistoric or Ceraunian stone tools because they used to appear in the same place. Until the 16th century, the true nature of the ceraunos was not known and for a long time they were considered “lightning stones”, which fell from the sky during storms. This was believed to be so for a reason that has nothing to do with raining stones: during storms, especially if they are intense, many fossil deposits can be uncovered due to the washing effect of the soil.


Vitaliano, D. (1986) Legends of the Earth, Salvat

Buffetaut, E. 1993) Fossils and Men, RBA

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