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Fossil Preparation

Once the fossil, or fossils, have been located and extracted from the rock in a more manageable state, the preparation stage begins.

The 'jackets' you can see on the shelves in the photograph below are from the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum in Winton.  Because of the time involved in removing these delicate fossils form the rocks, they have enough specimens to last at least 10 years!

Many new species of dinosaur that are 'discovered' were actually dug out of the ground years before.  It just took that long to get it out of the rock and identify it!

Whether it was cut from the rock on a small scale, or part of a big slab in a jacket, the next part is always the same.  Long, patient hours with hand tools, similar to an engraver, removing the stone grain by grain.  There are varoius tools utilised for different stages including a type of mini-sandblaster, air tools and engravers, and each are used at different stages of the process.

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More on Fossil Preparation

The preparation of fragment or whole bones is a very time consuming process. To expose the fossilized material it is necesery to have the right tools . Preparation is a very delicate and important job and it needs to take in consideration what kind of rock the fossil is in.

Some fossils are very little and need to be prepared under the microscope, whereas some, like the vertebrae of Titanosaurs from Argentina (Patagotitan or Argentinosaurus) are enormous.

Carpenter's glue and superglue are used to stabilise the fossil material. Also a solution of "liquid plaster" diluted at a certain percentage in acetone is very important in making the specimen stronger and less fragile. Some fossils embedded in mud are left in a bath of vinegar that is regularly monitored and replaced until the matrix surrounding the specimen is completely gone. Full skeletons take years to be prepared.

It is certainly exciting as a preparater to be the first person to uncover the specimen that after millions years sees the light of day again!

One of the first thing in preparation is to use the right tools for the right job.  When a fossil gets extracted most of the time it needs to be stabilised with a glue solution that contains paralloid. The solution is made of acetone and acts like a carrier for beads of plastic that have been dissolved in it. The acetone transports the plasticky substance into the bone, and by absorbing it becomes stronger.

 

You can see some of the tools used, and excellent work done, by preparators from around the world below.

For more information, photo's and video's, check out our General Information section.  It is mostly about Victorian fossils, but we'll be expanding it over time.

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