Fossils beware - compositing - fabrication

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         Alioramus remotus

  • As specialist fossil suppliers and preparators we occassionally are confronted with material which although initially promises high expectation (after laborious prep work), only to be disastrously disappointed.
  • We acquired an extremely rare piece from Mongolia - a dinosaur tooth from the virtually unknown Alioramus  remotus.
  • Presented with the tip partially embedded in matrix, we proceeded to extract the tooth from what proved to be very solid, resistant rock.
  • Being from such a rare dinosaur species, work and progress was very slow, using only hand tools (scalpels, dental instruments) to ensure the potentially fragile fossil did not suffer any damage.
  • After two days dedicated work, the tooth emerged from its matrix, leaving the tip further preparation and fine matrix removal. 
  • Endeavouring to retain all serrations, again progress was slow using hand tooling - three days passed in total before we came to realise that all was not well.
  • The tooth tip and body were from different animals - worse still - different species.
  • Whilst it is common practice for Moroccan artisans to hide blemishes with matrix to the point of partly embedding the tooth, we did not expect such to be employed in this case.
  • Evidently the tooth tip did not preserve and to present a whole tooth, a tip from another dinosaur was glued to the Alioramus base, then worked and concealed with matrix.
  • Prior to our preparation, the tooth looked convincing - however just consider - if it really was a complete tooth from such a rare dinosaur, why would anyone leave it partly embedded in matrix?
  • Even if one side of the tooth was poorly preserved, having missing enamel, it would be better to remove the matrix.
  • While not expecting to discover what we found, we did have suspicions.
  • The images show the fossil prior to our preparation, after and with notations.
  • The first 3 images are after we had cleaned the tooth of a fine matrix overlay and defined the tip.
  • In the last 2 images it should be apparent that the width of the tip 'base' is greater than the receiving end of the actual base.
  • Further exploration revealed that the tip was thicker than the base, had a larger serration count per centimeter and possessed a concave profile as opposed to the base being slightly convex. 
  • Needless to say we returned the fossil to the supplier together with our findings.
  • The point of this guide is to demonstrate how convincing some fabricated pieces can appear AND to point out that had this tooth been supplied to a general fossil dealer, with no preparatory facilities, it would certainly have been sold on to an unsuspecting collector for a considerable sum.
  • Ipso factum - caveat emptor - be sure to research before you buy any fossil or other antiquity and purchase only from reputable dealers - better still find a respected fossil preparatory!

          Mike Holmes BSc.DipBiolSci.CertNatSci.CertContSci.MRI.AMBCS.AMIBiol.FZS


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