Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Faking Fossils

In the comments for yesterday's post on Rick Sardinha's fossilized dragon CoastConFan provided a link to a fascinating discussion about the proliferation of fake fossils. It's a major problem for serious collectors who might end up spending thousands of dollars on a rare, high quality specimen only to discover that it's just a cleverly made counterfeit. Worse, there's no recourse. By the time you discover you've been had the check has been cashed and the scam artist is long gone.

While faux fossils may be the bane of collectors, from a prop standpoint the linked article is a treasure trove of information for anyone looking to create their own fakes. Some of the techniques are obvious, such as carving the skeleton in relief and then staining it, but others are surprisingly inventive.

"The techniques utilized in creating PTEROSAUR and BIRD FOSSILS are identical and equally apply to both fossil types. Predominantly, these two methods are employed together:

1. Carving, sculpting, painting portions of the fossil that never were there INCLUDING SOFT TISSUE AND FEATHER IMPRESSIONS!!!

2. Assembling several components of fossil bones from several different incomplete animals into one animal.

3. Utilizing modern bird (or other type) bones arranged and embedded on a matrix slab or artificial matrix rock."


Phil said...

Sadly fake artifacts have been around for a couple centuries. But I don't think its ever been quite as lucrative as it is nowadays.

I do have to admit though, a few of those were pretty obvious.

But heres hoping universities start adding 'fraud detection' to their paleontology courses.

Jens said...

Right now there is an interesting exhibition in Switzerland about fake antiques called "L'age du Faux" (The Age of Fake). Beside other exhibits they have a very nice dragon, made out of a dryed ray.


(picture out of an article of the german magazine "Spiegel")

CoastConFan said...

Check out Wikipedia for: Bone Wars, Archaeoraptor, Cardiff Giant, Nebraska Man, and Piltdown man for famous hoaxes. You might try to make Arkham Man or some nice paleofake Cthulhuoid fossil creatures. You can also try top ten hoaxes: http://www.bizarrebytes.com/top-ten-famous-hoaxes-in-history/ for inspiration.

Jens said...

@ Phil: I made a master in oriental archeology, and during my studies I actually had two seminars about detecting frauds. So I think slowly they understand how important it is to tell apart frauds from real artefacts. One of the main problems is though that once something was said to be real, many scientists have a hard time revising their opinion.