Geological Curators' Group Blog

Introduction

Whilst inspecting an example of a John Mawe mineral collection (from the 1820s) at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery it was observed that it contained an uncatalogued item, namely a petrified frog. (Fig.1)

Figure 1: John Mawe rock and mineral collection showing petrified frog. © John Cooke / Buxton Museum and Derbyshire County Council.

This addition may not be too unusual for the time as many miners and collectors, especially up to the Victorian period, believed that animals (especially toads) became entombed within rock during formation and were able to remain in a suspended animated condition until release. In antiquity toads were believed to have special powers because of a jewel in their head. So, what is the background to these phenomena?

Toadstone and Toads

The toadstone, also known as bufonite (from Latin bufo, “toad”), is a mythical stone or gem that was believed historically to reside in the heads of toads. Like batrochite, it was…

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