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Ref  LJ8  Amuletic Tongue Stone

An amuletic 'tongue stone' [fossilised shark's tooth] pendant mounted in gilded silver in the early 18th century. When fossilised sharks' teeth were first discovered embedded in rocks in ancient times their origin was a mystery. Pliny the Elder speculated that the curious triangular objects were meteorites which fell from the sky during lunar eclipses; in the Middle Ages it was believed that they were the tongues of serpents that had been turned to stone by Saint Paul. As a result they came to be called glossopetrae or 'tongue stones'. Tongue stones were highly valued amulets and are recorded in royal, papal and noblemen's inventories from the 13th century onwards. Fossilised sharks' teeth might seem unusual objects to grace the tables of European courts. However, they were deemed to be essential in an age when poison was a common tool used to dispose of one's enemies. Tongue stones were considered to be the ultimate test of safety due to their perceived ability to detect poison. The amulets were dipped in wine to be drunk and if they did not change colour then the beverage was safe to drink. The pendant is 1.5 inches long excluding original suspension loop and 1 and 1/4 inches wide at its widest point. There are similar examples in the British Museum and a particularly spectacular example, the Natternzungen-Kredenz, in the Schatzkammer Museum, Vienna.

£950

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Natternzungen-Kredenz [Tree of tongue stones] in the Schatzkammer Museum, Vienna.

AN00987572 001 l

Similar tongue stone amulet in the British Museum.

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