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Lapis Judaicus or the Jews' stone: The folklore of fossil echinoid spines

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‘Jews’ Stone' (Lapis Judaicus) is the name given to the spines of certain cidaroid echinoids, especially Balanocidaris. Used extensively as a prophylactic and treatment for various common and painful urinary disorders, particularly bladder stones, kidney stones and dysurea, it has a long folklore pedigree extending from classical times, especially in the Mediterranean area. The medicinal application of the Jews' stone was determined by its shape, using the principle of sympathetic magic. Either sucked or powdered and mixed with a wide range of botanical, mineral and animal ingredients, it was often taken in wine or water. On Malta, echinoid spines were referred to as St Paul's stick.
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Lapis Judaicus or the Jews’ stone: the folklore of fossil echinoid spines
Christopher J. Dun
DUFFIN, C. J. 2006. Lapis Judaicus or the Jews’ stone: the folklore of fossil echinoid spines.
Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association,117, 265–275. ‘Jews’ Stone’ (Lapis Judaicus)isthe
name given to the spines of certain cidaroid echinoids, especially Balanocidaris. Used extensively
as a prophylactic and treatment for various common and painful urinary disorders, particularly
bladder stones, kidney stones and dysurea, it has a long folklore pedigree extending from
classical times, especially in the Mediterranean area. The medicinal application of the Jews’
stone was determined by its shape, using the principle of sympathetic magic. Either sucked or
powdered and mixed with a wide range of botanical, mineral and animal ingredients, it was
often taken in wine or water. On Malta, echinoid spines were referred to as St Paul’s stick.
Key words: echinoids, spines, Jews’ stone, history, medicine
146 Church Hill Road, Sutton, Surrey SM3 8NF, UK (e-mail: cdun@blueyonder.co.uk)
1. INTRODUCTION
This paper reviews the folklore and cultural uses of
fossil echinoid spines, based largely upon an extensive
examination of a wide and diuse literature. Original
spellings, grammar and punctuation are retained for
all of the quotations given. Although cited in a number
of technical and semi-popular works (e.g. Kunz,
1915; Abel, 1939; Mortensen, 1948; Lüschen, 1979;
Annoscia, 1981; Bassett, 1982; Oakley, 1985; Rätsch &
Guhr, 1989; Thenius & Vavra, 1996), a detailed over-
view of Jews’ stones has never been presented before,
although they formed part of an essay by Gould (2000).
2. HISTORY OF THE JEWS’ STONE IN
EUROPE
The larger spines of regular echinoids, especially cidar-
oids such as Balanocidaris, have a long history of use in
folk medicine. Called Lapis Judaicus or Jews’ stones,
they are first mentioned in the Greek Herbal De
Materia Medica ascribed to Pedanius Dioscorides
(c.40–90) (Bromehead, 1945, p. 106; Gunther, 1968,
p. 655). Dioscorides was born in Anazarbus, Cilicia
(modern Turkey), serving Nero’s army as surgeon and
botanist. His five-volume work is the first in a long
lineage of pharmacopoeia and, almost uniquely for a
classical text of this type, was copied with minor
occasional additions through the following centuries,
being translated from Greek into Arabic, Latin and,
later, English (Goodyer, 1655 in Gunther, 1968).
Dioscorides (Gunther, 1968, p. 655) wrote of Lapis
Judaicus:
But ye Judaicall stone grows in Judea, in fashion
like a Glans, white, of very handsome form,
having also lines answering one another as if made
by turning. Being dissolved, it yields no relish in
ye taste. But a Cicer-like bigness (thereof) being
dissolved like a Collyrie on a whetstone with three
Cyathi of warm water & drank, is of force to help
Dysuries & to break ye stones in ye bladder.
The fact that the stone ‘grows in Judea’ was obvi-
ously important so far as the name was concerned.
Bassett (1982, p. 17) commented that ‘during the
Crusades many such spines were brought back to
Europe’ (see also Mayor, 2000, p. 375), although the
author has been unsuccessful so far in trying to trace
further documentary evidence of this practice, or sur-
viving specimens. It may be that the ‘Judaean Stone’
cited by Galen ( 129–200), surgeon to the gladiators
at Pergamon and later imperial physician in Rome,
was identical to the Jews’ stone. Galen recommended
them against stones in the bladder (Galen, 1826; Galen
in Kuhn, 1833).
Dioscorides’ description is quite accurate. Cidaroid
spines are commonly ornamented by a series of longi-
tudinal, finely tuberculated striae. The size is indicated
as being about that of a chick pea (Cicer arietinum).
Balanocidaris glandifera was originally described
as Cidarites glandiferus Goldfuss, 1826 (p. 120) and
recorded from the Jurassic of Altdorf in Bavaria,
Württemberg in southern Germany, and from near
Randen in Switzerland. Goldfuss (1826, pl. 40,
figs 3a–d) figured four isolated spines, ranging in
length from 14 mm to 43 mm (Fig. 1). It is now known
from the Late Jurassic (Oxfordian to Tithonian) of
Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, including
Israel, and is a good candidate for the identity of some
Jews’ stones. The taxon was erected on the basis of
spine morphology, but has since been described from a
complete test (Vadet & Wille, 2002). The spines of
Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association,117, 265–275. 0016-7878/06 $15.00 2006 Geologists’ Association
B. glandifera have a short neck and a globular head
ornamented with beaded ribs. The head tapers rapidly
to a point distally. Later descriptions of the ‘Judaicall
stone’ often refer to it as being similar to an olive stone
(e.g. Konrad von Megenburg, 1350 [see Pfeier, 1994];
Nicols, 1659, p. 195; Charleton, 1668; Valentini, 1716)
and the size of an acorn (e.g. Albertus Magnus c. 1262
[Wycko, 1967, p. 100]; Cotgrave, 1611).
Gesner (1565), in his famous, landmark, pioneering
work, allocated Jews’ stones to class 9 in his classifica-
tion of fossils – those that resemble the parts of trees
(particularly fruits). Gesner (1516–1565), a Swiss poly-
math who wrote extensively on medicine, theology and
natural history, saw the publication of his work on
fossils shortly before his death in Zürich from the
plague (Adams, 1938). Although the first ever pictures
of fossils were presented a few years earlier by Encelius
(1557), Gesner is nevertheless famous for illustrating
his text with numerous woodcuts. Amongst these is the
first illustration of Jews’ stones, which is reproduced
here in Figure 2a (compare with Fig. 1). Cidaroid
echinoid spines are clearly represented as the subjects.
Nehemiah Grew (1641–1712), famous botanist and
Secretary to the Royal Society from 1677, was respon-
sible for cataloguing the collections of the Royal
Society (Grew, 1681, p. 226). He described a variety of
spines from a number of echinoid genera as, variously,
‘like an Almond’, ‘like an Akorne’, ‘like an Olive-
Stone’, ‘almost like a Hazel Catkin’ and ‘in shape like
a pestil’. His fullest description, however, is:
JUDIAC STONE (Lapis Judaicus) in the form
of a Pear. ‘Tis an inch and half long; stalked like
a Pear; Next to the stalk slender; turbinated
upwards, to an inch in Diametre; and umbellated
at the top, or depressed as a Pear, round about the
flower. Adorned also round about with small
tuberculated Striae which run from end to end.
Dioscorides referred to the phallic shape of the
stone (Gunther, 1968, p. 655) and recommended that it
be used to treat bladder stones and other urinary
Fig. 1. Spines of Balanocidaris glandifera (Goldfuss), from Goldfuss (1826, pl. 40, figs 3a–d), in which they were described as
Cidarites glandiferus’.
Fig. 2. Early representations of Jews’ stones: (a) illustration
from Gesner (1565); (b) illustration from Worm (1655, p. 69).
C. J. DUFFIN
266
problems. The principle of sympathetic magic or
similia similibus curantur (a basic tenet of homeopathy)
– like cures like – is at work here, later developed
into the Doctrine of Signatures. Bladder stones, an
extremely painful condition, were apparently much
more common in the past, presumably a function of
diet. Lev & Dolev (2002, p. 172) stated that a lack of
water in the diet, with consequent high levels of
calcium saturation, is a prime factor. Even children
could be aected.
Hill (1759, p. 1) remarked that, ‘Human nature is
liable to no Disease more terrible than the stone; nor
are the lesser stages of that malady exempt from pain
or danger’. He went on to describe the symptoms that
mark the progressive onset of ‘the stone’:
(1) ‘a pain after making water; this is felt in the
extremity of the part, which seems as if it were cut
with a knife’;
(2) ‘a peculiar kind of colick, attended with an incli-
nation to go to stool, but without the power of
voiding anything’;
(3) ‘nausea and sickness of the stomach, a numbness
down the thigh on that side where the stone lies,
and a violent pain in the back’;
(4) ‘the pains in the back become intolerable; and the
sickness causing a continual reaching and vomit-
ing, all the other symptoms are aggravated, and in
the end, without the assistance of medicines, or in
spite of bad ones, a stone is discharged so large,
that it gives pain in the passage, and is heard
falling into the pot’.
The formal medical treatment of last resort involved
an operation known as a lithotomy. A humiliating and
painful technique, this involved rectal probing of the
stone followed by extraction through an incision in the
perineum (Lawrence, 1993; Moore, 2005). Indeed,
mortality rates from the procedure were as high as 40%
in the eighteenth century so it is little wonder that
alternative treatments and prophylactics were sought
so avidly.
Dioscorides recommended that the echinoid spine be
ground to a powder, dissolved in water and drunk. The
cyathus was a Roman bronze or silver ladle, com-
monly used to measure wine into a drinking cup. It was
a small measure, 1/12
th
of a sextarius, and equivalent
to about 4.5 centilitres (Smith & Wayte, 1890). Assum-
ing that the practitioner was able to dissolve all of the
spine successfully (which might have been possible if
rain water had been utilized), the resulting draught
would be roughly equivalent to a 1.5% solution of
calcium carbonate. No wonder ‘it yields no relish in ye
taste’!
Scientific lapidaries are manuscripts containing
many observations about the appearance, provenance,
properties and potential applications of a wide variety
of ‘stones’, including minerals, rocks, fossils and
earths. The seventeenth century Sloane Lapidary 2539
(MS held by The British Library) recommended that,
rather than being completely pulverized, it ‘is good
being shaven & desolved in water & so drunke itt
dissolveth or breaketh ye stone in the Bladder butt
Chiefly in ye Raimnes oye backe’. The latter con-
dition refers to kidney stones and the pain felt as the
stones are passed down the ureter toward the bladder.
The late fifteenth century Peterborough Lapidary
(Evans & Serjeantson, 1933, p. 80) extended its eec-
tiveness since ‘he is gode to clense ye entrayles withyne
forthe’.
Pliny (c. 23–79), the Roman encyclopaedist
(Dun, 2005) used a dierent name for the spines in
his Historia Naturalis ( 77; Healy, 2000) and noted
that, rather than drinking the powdered stone in a
draught of water, a specimen should be sucked: ‘The
“tecolithos” or “solvent stone”, looks like an olive
stone and has no value as a gem, but when sucked
breaks up and disperses stone in the bladder’.
The most detailed instructions concerning the use of
Lapis Judaicus in the treatment of bladder stones occur
in the medical treatise of Wirtzung (1617), physician
friend of Gesner. He began by suggesting a low key
prophylactic approach to ‘hinder and restraine the
ingendring and growing of the gravel and stone’ with
mild items such as Clisters (medicines injected into
the rectum) or suppositories of licorice, melon seed,
Pompeon seed, Gourd seed, Cucumber seed, Fennell,
and Hollyhock roots and flowers (Wirtzung, 1617,
p. 452). If these failed to do the trick, he recommended
a more robust approach involving syrups, juleps (a
liquid sweetened with syrup and acting as a vehicle for
medicines), confections, powders, pills, salves and
baths, many of which incorporated Jews’ stones as
active ingredients. The greatest diversity lies in a series
of confections which were to be eaten prior to an
episode of blood-letting. Powdered echinoid spines
were mixed with a whole raft of ingredients, mostly
herbal, but also including such ecacious items as
dried Pike bones, calcined Hare, Buck’s blood, ashes of
Wagtail, burnt glass and the left-over eggshells follow-
ing the hatching of chicks. These were made palatable
by the addition of flavourings such as sugar, winter
cherries and ginger. In order to aid mixing and
swallowing, the confections were added to solutions
(‘water’) of Mallow, Bean or Asparagus. A number
of recipes are included in Appendix A for ease of
reference.
One extreme recipe involving ‘oyle of scorpions’
was, not surprisingly, limited to external application:
‘Item, take oyle of Scorpions three ounces, burnt
Sponge Stones, and burnt Wagtailes, of each three
dragmes, Jewes Stone one dragme, make a salve or a
plaister thereof with ware’.
Wecker (1660, p. 63), a Swiss physician living in
Basel provided another series of recipes originally
collected from a series of manuscripts. Details of these
are given in Appendix B. They dier from Wirtzung’s
recipes in the detailed mix of components; spices
presumably aided palatability and preservation,
whilst Aqua vita and best wine were used as solvents.
LAPIS JUDAICUS: FOLKLORE OF FOSSIL ECHINOID SPINES
267
Mithridatum, a specially formulated treacle which was
seen as a universal antidote to poison (Grin, 2004)
also appeared in the recipes and, considering that
the mix of ingredients was sometimes allowed to
decompose anaerobically for two weeks before being
fermented, may have been a wise precaution!
Leonardus (1502; 1750, p. 88), physician to Caesar
Borgia, stated that:
Cogolites or Cegolites, by Physicians reckon’d a
Jewish Stone, from its being frequently found in
that Country, and like the Nut of an Olive; .in
the Inside it has the Colour of Alumn or Silver. It
is not graceful to the Sight, but is useful in
Medicine. Being bruised and dissolv’d in Water,
and taken inwardly, it dissolves Stones in the
Kidneys, and clears the Bladder from Gravel; and
being drank with a proper Quantity of Water,
removes the Strangury.
‘Strangury’ describes the condition in which there is
the painful sensation of urinary urgency and frequency
even though the bladder is empty. In this work,
Leonardus also identified the Jews’ stone as Tegolitis,
Telitis and Cagolites, all modified from Pliny.
Scheuzcher (1740, p. 51) added further to the list of
names with: Lapis Syriacus; Phoenicites; Pyrene;
Eureos; Tecolithus; Oliva lapidea; Judenstein;
Olivenstein; Steinerne Oliven. In this list, he partly
followed Charleton (1668), omitting those names
where Charleton obviously confused crinoids (includ-
ing Stella Judaica) with echinoid spines.
Use of the Jews’ stone in the treatment of bladder
stones and urinary disorders continued at least until
the Renaissance; Browne (1658), renowned exposer of
falsehood (‘vulgar errors’) was content to accept the
veracity and eectiveness of the stone, which continued
to appear in medicinal texts at least until Culpeper’s
(1652) Compleat Herbal. Pomet (1694, 1737), chief
druggist to Louis XIV, stated that:
Mr Charas in his Book of Chymistry at the 821st
page says that this stone being calcined with
sulphur from it with distilled Vinegar, Spirit of
Salt and Spirit of Honey, may be drawn a Salt
that is admisable from breaking the Stone.They
are both [male and female varieties] indierently
used in Physicke, being first pound to give a fine
Powder on a marble. This powder is given to stop
Fluxes of the Belly, to provoke Urine and to break
the stone in the Kidneys and Bladder.
The reference to two types of Jews’ stone in the above
passage refers to ‘male’ and ‘female’ varieties of the
stone. The ‘male’ form was identified as the more
slender spines with tuberculated longitudinal ridges,
while the ‘female’ form was rather more expanded and
had a smooth surface (Valentini, 1714, p. 54; Kunz,
1915, p. 187; Abel, 1939, p. 97). Hill (1751, p. 303)
remarked that the ‘female’ form is the ‘common
Judaicus of the Shops’. Plot (1677), Keeper of the
Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, recorded and figured
‘female’ stones from Oxfordshire.
Sir John Hill (1751, 1759), was variously a botanist,
apothecary, occasional actor, novelist and gardener.
He suggested a regimen of abstinence from wine,
taking ‘the air’, general exercise and early rising as a
means of avoiding the formation of stones in the
urinogenital system. He advocated the use of Jews’
stones as a diuretic and Lithontriptic (‘stone breaker’)
in the treatment of the early stages of kidney and
bladder stones. Perfectly aware of its origin as a fossil
echinoid spine, Hill remarked (1759, p. 36) that it
was so eective because it is a ‘sparry’ (calcareous)
material. He recommended doses of a ‘scruple to a
dram’ (between 1.132 g and 1.77 g) and commented
that if the
solid substance is given in powder, its weight
carries it too fast thro’ the bowels: but in the state
wherein it is suspended in water, it is not liable to
that objection; it passes principally by the kidneys,
and as like things attract like, it brings away small
stones with it.
Should a solution of Judaic stone fail to eect a
lasting cure, he went on to recommend Linseed Tea,
Goldenrod and millipedes mashed and dissolved or
suspended in Rhenish wine as further treatments in the
later stages of the disease.
Brookes (1721–1763), who reiterated many of Plot’s
(1677) observations of fossils, commented that at the
time he was writing, no authorities recognized the
ability of Lapis Judaicus to break bladder stones. He
did acknowledge, however (Brookes, 1763, p. 326),
that they, together with powdered belemnite:
may unite with the salts in the fluids of a human
body, and by that means render them unfit for
passing through the pores of the skin; and then it
is no wonder they should rush toward the kidneys,
and seek for an exit that way, and afterwards be
excreted in the form of large gravel.
Not surprisingly, the perceived medicinal value of
Jews’ stones made them highly collectable items, not
only for the Apothecary (Hill, 1751; 1759) but also for
the personal cabinet of European virtuosi. Catalogues
of various Kunstkammerer containing descriptions
and illustrations of specimens were published from the
sixteenth through to the eighteenth centuries. A few
illustrations are reproduced here from the collections
of Olaus Worm (1655), Professor of Chemistry at
Copenhagen (Fig. 2b), and Michel Mercati (1719),
Director of the Botanical Garden at the Vatican
(Fig. 3). The earliest illustration found combining
Jews’ stones with an echinoid test is that of Imperato
(1599, 1672), the Italian pharmacist based in Naples
(Fig. 4).
C. J. DUFFIN
268
3. JEWS’ STONES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Citations in Arabic concerning the Jews’ stone were
first recorded by the Persian philosopher and phys-
ician, Abn Ali al Hosain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina
(980–1037), whose name is generally Latinized to
Avicenna. By the age of 21 years, he had written an
enormous medical textbook cum encyclopaedia, the
al-Qanun, consisting of five component books. These
were later translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona
(1114–1187), a proficient student of Arabic living in
Toledo, and thereby made available to the medical
fraternity of the West. Avicenna made an enormous
impact on the medicine of both the Western and
Fig. 3. Early representations of Jews’ stones, also depicting crinoid stems (Entrochus), from Mercati (1719).
Fig. 4. Jews’ stone articulated with echinoid test from Imperato (1599, p. 671).
LAPIS JUDAICUS: FOLKLORE OF FOSSIL ECHINOID SPINES
269
Islamic traditions, and was revered by his students as
‘al-Sheikh al-Rais’ (‘Leader among the wise men’). His
work (Avicenna, 1507) contains comments about Lapis
Judaicus which largely repeat those of earlier authors.
He does seem to indicate in addition that it might also
have been used to treat bleeding in the bowel (the
‘bloody flux’ or amoebic dysentery).
Moses Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon: 1135–
1204) was a polymath, born in Spain, but fleeing to
Morocco, Israel and then Egypt when the country was
in the grip of Muslim extremists. A very influential
Jewish scholar and philosopher, he wrote extensively
on medical matters. In a departure from the usual
application to urinary disorders, Maimonides (1211 in
Muntner, 1966) commended the application of anti-
venin plasters containing powdered Jews’ stones to
wounds:
To the simple remedies which draw out any
poison from the organism when placed on the
bitten spot, belong the following: mentastrum,
Ocimum basilicum, crocodile fat of the scincus
ocinalis variety, pigeon excrement, duck excre-
ment, sulphur, Ferula asafoetida (laserpitium),
goat dung, green bdellium of Balsamodendron
mukul, kitchen salt, all kinds of onion, lapis
judaicus. Take the one at hand, crush and knead
with honey in the form of a plaster to be applied
to the wound after it has been sucked out by
mouth or cupping glass, to draw out the remain-
ing poison.
Following Dioscorides, Avicenna and Maimonides,
these petrified spines also became adopted into medi-
eval Arabic material medica, where they appear as
Hajar al-Yahudi (literally ‘Jews’ stone’) in twelfth and
thirteenth century medical compendia (Ibn al-Baytar,
1874, II: 5; Anataki, 1935). Recent work has shown
that Jews’ stones were used extensively in the ancient
Levant (the region embracing modern Israel, Lebanon,
Syria and Jordan), especially as a medieval diuretic
and treatment for kidney stones (Lev & Dolev, 2002;
Lev, 2002, 2003). In this area, its use was also extended
to the treatment of wounds, stings and snake bites
(Lev, 2002, p. 13), probably in response to the writings
of Maimonides quoted above.
Whilst successively later editions of the London
Pharmacopaeia show that traditional medicinal confec-
tions were progressively reduced in Western medicine,
a number have been retained through an almost
unbroken, though not necessarily published lineage, in
the Middle East. Specimens of Jews’ stones are still
sold in certain bazaars and markets today, specifically
for the clearance of urinary obstructions. This has been
documented for the Babylonian Jews (Ben Ya’akov,
1992) and a number of ethnic minority groups in Israel
(Lev & Amar, 2000; Lev & Dolev, 2002), the Kingdom
of Jordan (Lev & Amar, 2002; Lev & Dolev, 2002) and
Pakistan (probably imported from the Lebanon and
known as Hajarul Yahud; Ali & Mhadihassan, 1984).
In terms of provenance, spines of Balanocidaris
glandifera are most likely to have come from the Upper
Oxfordian ‘Glandarienkalk’ limestones of the Mount
Hermon district of what is now southern Lebanon
(Fraas, 1878; Zeev Lewy, pers. comm., 2005).
4. ECHINOID SPINES IN MALTA
Much of the fossil lore of Malta revolves around the
very strong influence of the Pauline cult which devel-
oped after the Apostle was shipwrecked on the island
in  60 (Buhagiar, 1993). On March 28 1566, the
Augustinian monk, Padre Spirito Pelo Angusciola was
invited to speak following the laying of the foundation
stone of Valletta. In his sermon, he referred to numer-
ous ‘Vestigie di San Paolo’ embedded in Maltese rocks.
Amongst these, he alluded to the Bastoncino (‘stick’
or Baculum)di San Paolo (Ciantar, 1772; Zammit
Maempel, 1989, p. 22) of local lore, referring to the
staoften sported by the apostle in various illustra-
tions and seals. Further brief mention is made by later
authors, notably Boccone (1674, p. 279), Giorgi (1730,
p. 269) and Ciantar (1772, p. 442).
Scilla (1670, 1724) figured a representative specimen
of ‘Hystrix spinus lapidescentes’ (petrified spine of the
sea hedgehog) in his seminal work, stating that it is
commonly known on Malta as Baculi S. Pauli
(Accordi, 1978; see also Parkinson, 1833, vol. 3, p. 39,
pl. 4, fig. 5) (Fig. 5). The figure is of an isolated spine of
the cidaroid Stylocidaris melitensis (Wright, 1855). A
similar figure and identity is given by Parkinson (1833,
p. 40, pl. 4, fig. 5). The spines of Stylocidaris are long
(certainly over 40 mm), slender (around 4 mm in diam-
eter at the widest point of the spine) and ornamented
by finely denticulated longitudinal ridges.
In a rather less salubrious vein, the Bastoncino di San
Paolo has sometimes been interpreted phallically.
Zammit Maempel (1989, p. 24) reported an English
limerick dating from no earlier than the beginning of
the nineteenth century, which runs as follows:
There was a man from Rossal
Who found a remarkable fossil
He could tell by the bend
And the knob at the end
It belonged to St Paul the Apostle
Rossal is a town near Blackpool in Lancashire.
Kenneth Oakley (in Zammit Maempel, 1989, p. 24)
apparently collected a similar version in Hertfordshire,
ending with the line, ‘It was the tool of St. Paul the
Apostle’.
5. CONCLUSIONS
From a survey of the literature it can be seen that Jews’
stones were employed extensively in medicines for the
treatment of a variety of urinary disorders, including
the conditions identified in medieval and renaissance
C. J. DUFFIN
270
treatises as raines, strangury and gravel. These vari-
ously refer to kidney stones, bladder stones and
dysurea. In Malta and the Middle East, their use
was extended to include antivenin properties. Early
descriptions of the stone by Dioscorides and Pliny in
classical times suggest that it was the isolated spine of
a cidaroid echinoid. This is confirmed by early printed
woodcuts and later catalogues of personal cabinets.
The work of the renaissance collectors Ferrante
Imperato and Agostino Scilla did much to prove that
Jews’ stones, like many other ‘figured stones’ were not
‘sports of nature’ (lusus naturae) but the petrified
remains of once-living creatures, in this case sea
urchins.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The author is grateful to the Wellcome Library for the
History and Understanding of Medicine for access to
the many rare and ancient works consulted for this
study. Dr Andrew Smith was very helpful in tracing
specimens in the palaeontological collections of the
Natural History Museum. Mr Michael Clennett gener-
ously helped with the finer points of Medieval and
Renaissance Latin. Particular thanks go to Dr Zeev
Lewy (Geological Survey of Israel) for discussing as-
pects of the stratigraphy of the Middle East, and to Dr
Paul Taylor and Professor Michael Bassett for their
comments at the review stage.
A. MEDICINAL RECIPES USING ECHINOID
SPINES FROM WIRTZUNG (1617, pp. 456).
In each of the following recipes, the Jews’ stone has
been highlighted. Additional ingredients of palaeonto-
logical interest are ‘Sponge stones’ (Lapis spongiae),
which were often fossils. Original spellings have been
retained throughout.
Fig. 5. Reproduction of plate 24 from Scilla (1724); figure III shows a spine of Stylocidaris melitensis, identified by Scilla as an
example of Baculi S. Pauli – ‘St Paul’s stick’.
LAPIS JUDAICUS: FOLKLORE OF FOSSIL ECHINOID SPINES
271
(1) Take sponge stones, Hollihocke seed, Millet and
Medlar stones, of each half an ounce, prepared
Buckes blood one dragme, Jewes Stones and
Gromell seede, of each one scruple, great and small
Endive seed, and Pykes bones (which be unsodden)
of each half a dragme, Sugar as much as of all the
rest: but the Sugar decocted with the water of
winter Cherries, and then make Tabulates thereof,
and take of them every time halfe an ounce.
(2) Or take Pomate stone, Jewes Stone, and burnt
glasse, of each one dragme and a halfe, prepared
Bucks blood three dragmes, Gromel seed half an
ounce, beate them all small together, Sugar as
much as all the rest doth weigh, make with the
water of winter Cherries, or the water of Mallowes,
tabulates of it, and take half an ounce at once
thereof .
(3) Take prepared Bucks blood one dragme and a
halfe, the jawbones of Pickrels two scruples, Jew
Stones and Sponge Stones, of each half a dragme,
Melon seede, Hollihocke seed, Licorice, the seed of
Smallage, Cucubes, of each one scruple, Sugar two
ounces and a halfe, make a confection thereof with
the water of Mallowes.
(4) The Confection of a calcined Hare is thus to be
prepared: Take Jewes Stone and Sponge stones of
each one dragme, the powder of a burnt hare one
quarter of an ounce, Spec. Lithontribon one quar-
ter of an ounce, Sugar four ounces: make thereof
with Saxifrage water tabulates or a Confection.
This foresaid Electiuarie provoketh urine, and
clenseth all the ureters of all urine and gravel, and
expelleth also all windes: take thereof two or three
dragmes with the water of Sperage [Asparagus]
betimes in the morning, and also before both the
meale tides.
(5) There is also another confection prepared for this
called Electuarium de Cineribus, which is a confec-
tion of ashes, as followeth hereafter:) Take ashes
of burnt Scorpions one quarter of an ounce,
Cantharides without heads and wings one dragme,
prepared Bucks blood one quarter of an ounce,
burnt glasse, ashes of unset Coleworts, Hares
ashes, ashes of Wagtayles, and ashes of Egshels
whereof Chickens have bene hatched, of each
two dragmes, Jew stones, stones of Ore [cow]
galles, Pepper, wild yellow Rape seed, Caraway,
Hollihocke seede, Gum, Saxifrage and Gromell
seedes, Sefeli, Balsam fruites and the wood,
India spica, Maidenhaire, Mallowes, Pompeons,
Cucumbers, and Gourd seedes, of each one
dragme, of Roses, as much as suceth for to make
a confection of it, take thereof morning and
evening the quantity of a hazel nut at once,
tempered with the decoction of Cicers .
(6) Item. Take Sponge Stones, Jewes Stones, burnt
glasse, prepared Buckes blood and Sugar, of each a
like quantity, give one dragme thereof with
Oxymel or with the water of Smallage when he
hath the paine. Both these aforesaid are by reason
of the great help and cure that they do called the
hand of God .
(7) Or take Gromell seede, Annis, Fennell, Parsley
seedes, and peeled Melon seede, of each one
dragme, Lignum Aloes, winter Cherries, red Saxi-
frage, Sponge Stones, and Jewes Stones, of each
one scruple, the seed of Broome and of Saxifrage,
of each half a dragme, Cinnamon, prepared Cori-
ander, and red Saunders, of each three quarters of
an ounce, Cloves, Galingal, Ginger, of each three
dragmes, white Sugar two ounces, make a powder
of it, and take one dragme at once thereof with
Mallowes water and a pease broth .
(8) Item, take Licorice one quarter of an ounce,
Sponge Stone, and Jewes Stone, of each tenne
graines, fennel seed, Ameos,Mirrha,Annys, the
seed of Mallowes, peeled Melon seed, Pompeon
sede, chopt small together, of each half a dragme,
Cinnamome one dragme beaten small together:
there is the waight of a dragme thereof to be taken
with any of the foresaid waters. There may also be
preoared for this these pilles ensuing: Take burnt
glasse, ashes of a Hare, Sponge Stone, and Jewes
Stone, of each a like much, make pils thereof with
the water of Saxifrage: also three round slices of
Radishes eaten every morning to be very good.
(9) Another. Take Rubarbe, Ginger berries, Cassie
wood, and Fennell, of each one quarter of an
ounce, Annis one dragme, Licorice five dragmes,
Jewes Stone half an ounce, Agaricus, Ginger,
Cinnamome and Cloves, of each one dragme,
Mithridate three dragmes, Mace, and Nutmegs, of
each half a dragme, Masticke one dragme; put all
these together beaten in a glass, and poure thereod
three pounds of the Spirit of Wine or Aqua vitae,
then stop it tight, and set it the space of five days in
the sunne; stirre it all together very well, then
poure as much Malmesey [a strong, sweet wine]
unto it, and let it stand againe eight or foureteene
daies in the sunne, stirring it every day well about,
afterwards straine it and keepe it well; when as the
gravel beginneth to pricke, then take a spoonefull
thereof every day, and you shall finde amendement
out of hand. This same may be distilled like as the
former.
B. MEDICINAL RECIPES USING ECHINOID
SPINES FROM WECKER (1660, p. 63).
(1) For the Stone, of the Emperour Maximilian the
Second. Take the best Rheubard two drams,
Galanga, grains of Paradise, Anniseed,
Fennelseed, Agarick, Mastick, Cinnamon, of each
one dram, Licorish half an Ounce, Jews stone three
drams, Mithridate five drams, Mace four drams,
Cloves half a dram, Aqua vitae one part, Malligoe
two parts. Put all these into a Glass excellent well
stopt for fourteen daies; then distill them, let the
Patient take a spoonful twice a week upon an
empty Stomach. Out of a Manuscript.
C. J. DUFFIN
272
(2) A pouder for the Stone. Take Goats blood prepared
half an ounce, Jews stone, Crabs stones, Peach
kernels, of each one dram, Parsely seed two drams,
Smallage seed two drams; Make a very fine
pouder. A Manuscript.
(3) 3. Another. Take Rheubarb three drams, Juniper
berries five drams, bark of Cassia half an ounce,
Anniseed one dram, Fennellseed one dram, Jews
stone half an ounce, Agarick, Ginger, Cinamon,
Galanga, of each one dram, Mace two scruples,
Mithridate two drams, Licorish scraped six drams,
best wine two parts, Aquae vitae one part. Put all
into a Glass, let the Patient take one spoonful twice
in a Moneth. A Manuscript.
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LAPIS JUDAICUS: FOLKLORE OF FOSSIL ECHINOID SPINES
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... Al-Antaki (1543-1599 CE) identified it as a stone found in Jerusalem and Bilad al-Sham (Syria) (Saad and Said, 2011). A renowned botanist Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) gives full description of this stone as Judaic stone in the form of pear, an inch and half long; stalked like a pear, next to the stalked slender; turbinated upwards; up to an inch in diameter and umbellate at the top or depressed as a pear round about the flower (Duffin, 2006). Its size has been described to be little bigger than small nutmeg (Ibn Sina, 2007). ...
... The male variety was identified to have more slender spines with tuberculation and longitudinal ridges, while the female form was rather more expanded, smooth surfaced and reddish or blackish in colour. It could be easily ground (triturated) in water (Duffin, 2006). ...
... It stops bleeding from rectum; heals wounds, treats stings and snake bites. A review of historical text of medieval period revealed that it was extensively used for internal ailments and skin diseases (Duffin, 2006). It dissolves kidney and bladder stones; its powder treats wounds and when mixed with honey, softens calluses and hard skin (Saad and Said, 2011). ...
Article
Ethnopharmacological relevance: Hajrul yahood (Lapis judaicus) is a mineral drug used in different dosage forms in Unani system of medicine and claimed to be effective in the management of urolithiasis. Aim of the study: To explore the role of Hajrul yahood in the management of urolithiasis along with determination of its morphological, ethnomedicinal, physicochemical and pharmacological attributes. Materials and methods: A review of literature on Hajrul yahood was undertaken using the bibliographic database viz. Pub Med, Google Scholar, Science Direct and Scopus. The search was conducted using the terms 'Hajrul yahood', 'Lapis judaicus', 'Majoon Hajrul yahood' and 'Kushta Hajrul yahood'. Further books, monographs and reports on Lapis judaicus published in Urdu and English were used to compile the information. Results: Hajrul yahood as such and as an ingredient in multidrug formulations has been used for the treatment of kidney and bladder stones since ancient times mainly by the practitioners of traditional medicines. Literature of Unani medicine clearly indicated that Hajrul yahood and its different formulations are safe and have antilithiatic effect. Sufficient information in respect of morphological, physicochemical and ethnomedicinal properties of Hajrul yahood are available but very few pharmacological and clinical studies have been conducted. The available reports on Hajrul yahood and its products mainly Cystone® though has shown varying results but on the whole indicated possible antilithiatic effect. The studies conducted so far have been limited by small patient numbers, weak methodology, and poor study design therefore a conclusive result cannot be arrived at. Conclusion: Hajrul yahood and its formulations have been claimed by Unani medicine to be useful in the management of urolithiasis. Some of the scientific reports also suggest the possibility of such an effect however further elaborate and comprehensive studies are required to validate such a claim.
... Together with the mass of anatomical, botanical, zoological, ethnographical, antiquarian and documentary specimens, a number of drawers from Sloane's pharmaceutical cabinet ( Fig. 2) also found their way into the collections, where, until the 1930s, they were largely ignored. More recently, the medicinal materials contained within the separate compartments of the drawers have been useful in discussions concerning the history of individual medicaments (Duffin 2006a(Duffin , b, 2008. ...
... Invoking the principle of similia similibus curantur ('like cures like'), early authors noted the phallic shape of the spines and identified their main therapeutic application as a treatment for urinary problems, particularly strangury, bladder stones and other urinary calculi. A complex web of derivative literature has been analysed by Duffin (2006aDuffin ( , b, 2008. Suffice it to say in summary that Jews' Stones were mostly imported into Europe from rich sources in the Middle East (Upper Oxfordian 'Glandarienkalk' limestones of the Mount Hermon district of what is now southern Lebanon), and were either sucked whole or powdered and mixed with a wide range of botanical, mineral and animal ingredients before dispersal in a healing draught, usually wine or water. ...
Chapter
The transition from the late seventeenth to the early eighteenth century represented an interesting time in the development of the Materia Medica, with the traditional ‘Galenical’ approach being progressively replaced by the ‘Chymical’ approach, a necessary precursor to modern pharmacology. Four surviving complete and partial Materia Medica cabinets belonging to Sir Hans Sloane, John Vigani, John Addenbrooke and William Heberden form the focus for a consideration of changing practices in the medicinal use of geological materials over this period. The working and teaching cabinets contain both processed and unprocessed specimens of geological simples. Of these, some were waning in popularity (e.g. nephrite jade, Irish slate, pyrite and garnets, jet and cannel coal), others were hardly ever used (e.g. belemnites, echinoid spines, Goa Stone, hematite and aetites), whilst others still continued to be popular, either in raw or processed form (e.g. amber, cinnabar, selenite and Terra Sigillata). The collections, considered in the context of contemporary literature, provide a unique insight into this dynamic period in the history of pharmacy.
... The "male" has more slender spines with tuberculated longitudinal ridges, while the "female" form having more expanded with smooth surface. [7,20] Occurrence: It is found in hilly area of Europe, North Africa, Palestine, Syria and Middle ...
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ABSTRACT Hajar ul yahood is well known mineral Unani drug used for the treatment of urolithiasis. Hajar ul yahood is having Mufattit-e-Hasat (Lithortriptic) and Mudirr-e-Baul (Diuretic) property. It is used to treat Hasat-e-Kulya (Renal calculus), Ehtebas-e-Baul (Anuria), Usr-ul-Baul (Dysuria) due to its action mentioned above. Unani classical literature was searched for its complete description viz. temperament, actions, therapeutic uses, and dosage etc. For toxicological studies, pharmacological activities, and clinical trials carried out to prove the importance of Hajar ul Yahood computerized databases such as Medline, Pubmed, Ovid SP, Google Scholar and Science-direct were searched. From above review we can conclude that chemical composition, in vitro mechanism of action and clinical efficacy and safety of Hajar ul Yahood in the treatment of urolithiasis is established. Even its formulation “Kushta Hajar ul Yahood” is found to be safe in animals study. To benefit the mass clinical trial on larger sample size may be conducted. KEYWORDS: Hajar ul Yahood, Urolithiasis, Lapis judaicus, Unani medicine, Jew’stone
... The "male" has more slender spines with tuberculated longitudinal ridges, while the "female" form having more expanded with smooth surface. [7,20] Occurrence: It is found in hilly area of Europe, North Africa, Palestine, Syria and Middle ...
Article
Full-text available
Hajar ul yahood is well known mineral Unani drug used for the treatment of urolithiasis. Hajar ul yahood is having Mufattit-e-Hasat (Lithortriptic) and Mudirr-e-Baul (Diuretic) property. It is used to treat Hasat-e-Kulya (Renal calculus), Ehtebas-e-Baul (Anuria), Usr-ul-Baul (Dysuria) due to its action mentioned above. Unani classical literature was searched for its complete description viz. temperament, actions, therapeutic uses, and dosage etc. For toxicological studies, pharmacological activities, and clinical trials carried out to prove the importance of Hajar ul Yahood computerized databases such as Medline, Pubmed, Ovid SP, Google Scholar and Science-direct were searched. From above review we can conclude that chemical composition, in vitro mechanism of action and clinical efficacy and safety of Hajar ul Yahood in the treatment of urolithiasis is established. Even its formulation "Kushta Hajar ul Yahood" is found to be safe in animals study. To benefit the mass clinical trial on larger sample size may be conducted.
... Lapis judaicus names the larger spines of regular echinoids, especially cidaroids such as Balanocidaris glandifera Munster, called Jews' stones (English); Sang-e-Jahudan (Persian), and Hajarul Yahud (Arabic). It was formed in the Late Jurassic (Oxfordian to Tithonian) period in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East (Duffin, 2006). ...
Article
Ethnopharmacological relevance: Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract and cause a great deal of morbidity and economic loss. Because of the side effects and costs of current interventional procedures, researchers are interested in finding medicinal therapies. In this regard, some reports have focused on traditional medicines as a drug discovery resource. Iranian scholars in the medieval era recommended Lapis judaicus for the prevention and treatment of kidney stones. The present study assessed the efficacy and safety of Lapis judaicus on the size of calcium kidney stones and some related biochemical factors in blood and urine. Materials and methods: Sixty patients with kidney stone disease were included in this double-blind randomized clinical study. Thirty patients received 2g of Lapis judaicus powder in hard capsules per day for 10 weeks, and another 30 patients received a placebo for the same period. Ultrasonography was performed on patients, and blood and urine samples were collected before and after the study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Lapis judaicus in calcium kidney stone patients. Results: The size of the kidney stones was reduced significantly (p<0.001) in the drug group. In 9 patients from the drug group, the stone was completely dissolved. Moreover, urine calcium concentration and specific gravity were reduced and urine magnesium was increased (p<0.05). Lapis judaicus did not affect BUN, creatinine, ALT, or AST. Conclusion: Contrary to the placebo group, the size of kidney stones was reduced significantly in the treatment group after oral administration of Lapis judaicus. This preliminary study confirms traditional knowledge of the efficacy and safety of Lapis judaicus in kidney stone diseases and suggests a new method to treat calcium kidney stones. Further detailed in vitro and in vivo studies aimed at discovering the mechanism of action of Lapis judaicus and clinical studies involving a larger population of patients will be necessary to fully explain and confirm the results obtained in the present study.
... There have been only a few analyses of individual geological materials (e.g. Bromehead 1947;Mortensen 1948;Forbes 1966Forbes , 1972Forbes , 1973Riddle 1973;Kennedy 1976;Ragazzi 2005;Duffin 2005Duffin , 2006aDuffin , b, 2007Duffin , 2008aDuffin , b, 2009Duffin , 2010aDuffin , b, c, d, 2011aDuffin , b, 2012a. ...
Chapter
Geopharmaceuticals have a recorded history of use by a wide range of cultures for over 3000 years. The history of geological simples is written in the leaves of a diversity of literary sources, an overview of which is attempted for the first time. Egyptian medical papyri, Assyrian and Babylonian clay tablets, Indian Puranas, plus ancient Chinese, classical Greek and Roman writings all preserve a folk tradition of therapeutic earths, rocks, minerals and fossils. Anglo-Saxon Laeceboc, medieval Islamic writings, and Western medieval bestiaries all contain scattered references to geological simples. A surge of appreciation for geopharmaceuticals took place with the onset of the Western medieval lapidary tradition, which influenced the writings of the early encyclopaedists and writers of herbals. With the advent of printing, many classical and newly translated Islamic texts were made more readily available, stimulating a burst of scholarship by early modern scientists of the Renaissance. Increasingly detailed illustrations were used to embellish the catalogues of Renaissance Wunderkammern. By the late eighteenth century, the use of geological materials was declining, and being replaced by a more empirical approach to pharmacology.
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Rasa Shastra forms the core of the Ayurvedic treatment that mainly deals with Parad and a vast number of minerals, metals and animal products having therapeutic as well as alchemical importance. In Rasa Shastra metals and minerals depending on similar composition/properties to different Vargas (groups). Sikata varga is compounds of silica-containing group of drugs having enormous therapeutic value. Classification of Sikata varga was not use in classical manuscripts, the scattered description of features, types and processing into formulation of these drugs and their usage in alchemy; various methods of binding of mercury (Parada bandhas) as well as internal administration were enumerated. Authors of 20 th century have grouped these drugs under a specified class called Sikata Varga. The current work has been made to systemic compilation of all scattered information in one place for easy and better understanding of all Sikata varga Dravya in Ayurveda.
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Abstract: The Paper Museum comprises c. 10 000 drawings and prints, most of which are in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. When viewed in their seventeenth-century context, 25 of these drawings depict ‘geological’ material that also served as materia medica: earths, calculi, bezoars, toadstones, corals, calcifying alga, fungus stone, lodestone, eagle-stones, Bologna stone, amber, amulets, figured stones and gems. Some of these are listed in the official 1639 pharmacopoeia of Rome. Eleven of these drawings are reproduced here, nine of them for the first time. A single drawing may depict up to 25 specimens, many of which were in the collections of members of the Academy of the Lynxes (Lincei) or collectors known to them. The archives of Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1657) confirm the Lincei’s interest both in Paracelsian chemistry and in materia medica. Cassiano owned copies of two fifteenth- and sixteenth-century manuscripts listing more than 34 minerals with their therapeutic uses. The Lincei also published a sixteenthcentury manuscript containing 26 ‘minerals suitable for medical use’: De materia medica Novae Hispaniae, by Francisco Herna´ndez (1651), whose
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Fossils were credited with magico-medicinal properties in lapidary books written from the second century BCE onwards. The analysis of historical references to fossils in these ancient literary, geological, medical and magical texts has been named Cryptopalaeontology, a discipline that also includes discoveries of fossils at archaeological sites and the study of oral traditions. Theophrastus' Perì líthôn (third century BCE), the four apocryphal Greek lapidaries ( Líthica Orphéôs , Orphéôs Líthica Kêrygmata , Socrátous Dionísou perì líthôn and Damigeron–Evax : second century BCE), Pliny the Elder's Historiae Naturae, Dioscorides' De Materia Medica (first century CE), Isidore of Seville's Etymologiarum (seventh century) and Alfonso X's Libro de las Piedras (thirteenth century) all contain frequent references to fossils. In this context, these works might be considered the oldest treatises on fossils ever written. The talismanic use of most of these fossils against a wide range of diseases was based on sympathetic magic. Only a few (e.g. Lapis Gagates, amber and Lapis Bitumen) survive in recent pharmacopoeia.
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Specimens of the swallow stone (Chelidonius) include small clasts of agate, gastropod opercula (calcareous lids sealing the apertures of snails), crayfish gastroliths (paired calcareous concretions in the stomach), and possibly fossil fish teeth and larger foraminiferans (a type of unicellular organism). With a long literary pedigree extending from classical to early modern times, swallow stones were believed to have many curative properties utilized in folk medicine, as well as giving protection against evil forces and conferring numerous personal qualities on the owner. The sources presented here are regarded as accessible reflections of contemporary beliefs.