Perhaps the most well know myth regarding the area's fossils is that which relates to the creation of the ammonites , a local emblem and often found in the area. Ammonites are actually the fossilised remains of an extinct marine animal which first appeared in the Late Silurian to Early Devonian (circa 400 million years ago) and became extinct, along with the dinosaurs, at the end of the Cretaceous period (circa 65 million years ago). Legend has it, however that St Hilda
, (614-680AD), during her position as Prioress of Whitby Abbey, protected the locals and their town from a plague of snakes by calling upon God and turning the vicious creatures to stone with her staff. This has paved the way for the claim that ammonites are actually the petrified remains of those snakes. Indeed in appearance an ammonites tightly spiralled shell does resemble the coils of a snake and as a result it had once even been the practice for local tradesmen to carve snakes heads onto ammonites in order to take advantage of the myth and to sell them to believers as religious relics supporting the legend.