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Sliced and polished ammonite Ammonites are fossilised shells found in Mesozoic rocks (63 to 230 million years old), becoming extinct at about the same time as dinosaurs vanished from the face of the Earth. They are very abundant in the sea-cliffs of North Yorkshire especially around Whitby.

They are usually in the form of a flat coil and of the several hundred species some are as much as two metres in diameter.

Ammonites were cephalopod molluscs, like the modern-day nautilus, with its chambered shell, and the shell-less octopuses and squids.

whole ammomite The name ammonite comes from the Latin cornus Ammonis (horn of Ammon), due to its resemblance to the ram's horn, a symbol of the ancient Egyptian god Amon-Ra, who, according to one legend, is the father of Alexander the Great.

Ammonite chambers filled with calcite In Ireland ammonites were once said to be snakes which St. Patrick had turned to stone; to this day there are no native snakes to be found on the island.

A similar story is told of St.Hilda of Whitby, but she met with less success, as three species of snake still live in Britain.