Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

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The word “fossil” (Latin; literally “thing dug up”) comes from the field of mineralogy and in the early modern period it denoted all solid substances found in the earth’s crust, including minerals, salts, earths, artifacts (e.g. gemstones, stone axes, and pots), and fossils in the modern sense, that is, petrified remains of plants and animals. There was as yet no specific term for the latter. The word only began to become confined to its modern sense from the late 17th century.

In Antiquity and the Middle Ages, petrified organic materials were often taken for minerals. Th…

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Pickert, Susanne, “Fossil”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 09 December 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_019340>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20180126

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