They were carving it in Lithuania around 3000 bc, and it’s mentioned by Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Strabo, Theophrastus, and Pliny the Elder. More recently, it was central to the plot of the 1993 film Jurassic Park. We hear more from a piece of what the ancient Greeks called ‘petrified sunlight’.
I came, so my family history tells,
From an ancient Estonian tree.
I was formed in that pine’s epithelial cells,
But I longed for the day I’d be free.
Soon gravity, leveller extr’ordinaire,
Saw me ooze from a branch and took hold.
As a glutinous globule, I fell through the air,
A teardrop of resinous gold!
For millions of years I was buried and heated:
To copal, then amber, in stages.
Now exposed at the surface, I’m feeling depleted –
I suppose it’s the burden of ages?
My volatile turpenoid fractions have fled,
They left long ago for the skies.
My colour, once yellow, is turning to red
As my molecules polymerise.
And inside, a lodger I can’t get evicted:
A spider, her web still intact.
(It isn’t my fault, I could not have predicted
She’d get stuck and entombed on impact.)
Organic, amorphous, and almost aglow –
‘Petrified sunlight’, that’s nice!
Its what those old Greeks called me long, long ago.
Now I can be yours – for a price!