Ammonite Poetry
    By Danna Staaf | January 17th 2011 11:19 PM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Danna

    Cephalopods have been rocking my world since I was in grade school. I pursued them through a BA in marine biology at the University of California...

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    Cephalopod Tea Party is having a cephalopod pin give-away. To be entered in the drawing you must write a cephalopod-themed haiku! Although I probably have more than enough cephalopod tchotchkes, I couldn't resist the writing challenge. Last year I wrote a squid fishing haiku. How to top that?

    I've just been reading (in Wendy Williams' Kraken, which I have cracked now that I'm done with Mieville's--maybe I'll do a joint review?) about ammonites. These famously abundant ancestral cephalopods went extinct along with the dinosaurs at end of the Cretaceous, in what's known as the K-T mass extinction.

    Another thing ammonites have in common with a lot of the dinosaurs is that they were already in serious decline before the big meteor strike. Thus, a haiku, complete with seasonal reference:

    Ammonitic seas
    Declined. Cretaceous autumn.
    K-T killed their coils.


    Two Wikiquotes, illustrating an Ancient Egyptian connection:

    The name ammonite, from which the scientific term is derived, was inspired by the spiral shape of their fossilized shells, which somewhat resemble tightly-coiled rams' horns. Pliny the Elder (d. 79 AD. near Pompeii) called fossils of these animals ammonis cornua ("horns of Ammon") because the Egyptian god Ammon (Amun) was typically depicted wearing ram's horns. Often the name of an ammonite genus ends in -ceras, which is Greek (κέρας) for "horn".
    and Ammonia
    The Romans called the ammonium chloride deposits they collected from near the Temple of Jupiter Amun (Greek Ἄμμων Ammon) in ancient Libya 'sal ammoniacus' (salt of Amun) because of proximity to the nearby temple.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Danna Staaf
    Glad you mentioned this, as it finally drove me to look up the ram's horn connection, which I've been wondering about. Turns out the original Ammon (Amun) worn straight feathers, not ram's horns.

    The feathers look kind of like straight-shelled ammonites, curiously enough!

    According to the ever-factual Wikipedia, t wasn't until Ancient Egypt conquered Kush and merged their Amun with a ram-headed Kush deity that he got spiral horns.