Metallotheca opus posthumum, auctoritate, & munificentia Clementis undecimi pontificis maximi e tenebris in lucem eductum; opera autem, & studio Ioannis Mariae Lancisii archiatri pontificii illustratum.Rome: ex officina Joannis Mariae Salvioni Romani in Archigymnasio Sapientiae, 1717.
In 1717 papal physician Giovanni Maria Lancisi published the catalogue of the Vatican "armaria" series housing the natural history museum collected by one of his predecessors at the Vatican, the 16th century papal physician Michele Mercati. The collection included Mercati's fossils, marbles, ores, shells, earth samples, salts, alums, gums and resins. Though it was published more than a century after Mercati's death, the Metallotheca remains the record of one of the earliest 16th century natural history museums. With papal sponsorship the work was published in a luxurious manner.
"Mercati collected curious objects - fossils, minerals and so on - as well as 'ceraunia' or 'thunderstones'. Mercati was particularly interested in Ceraunia cuneata, "wedge-shaped thunderstones," which seemed to him to be most like axes and arrowheads, which he now called ceraunia vulgaris, "folk thunderstones," distinguishing his view from the popular one. Mercati examined the surfaces of the ceraunia and noted that the stones were of flint and that they had been chipped all over by another stone. By their shapes, Mercati deduced that the stones were intended to be hafted. He then showed the similarities between the 'ceraunia' and artifacts from the New World that explorers had identified as implements or weapons.
"Mercati posited that these stone tools must have been used when metal was unknown and cited Biblical passages to prove that in Biblical times stone was the first material used. He also revived the Three-age system of Lucretius, which described a succession of periods based on the use of stone (and wood), bronze and iron respectively" (Wikipedia article on Michele Mercati, accessed 1-2020).
Subjects: EVOLUTION › Human Origins / Human Evolution, MUSEUMS › Natural History Museums / Wunderkammern