Fake fossils in China again – a demonstration

In my much read post on faked fossils in China I made mention of some of the more obvious fakes knocking around in China and the lack of a need to worry about people identifying them. Here is one of the worst examples I was able to track down while in Liaoning and I thought it worth bringing some attention to it as a demonstration of what we are dealing with (at least in some cases).IMGP3543

While we can ignore the dodgy matrix for now (which is very different to that these animals are normally found in for starters) two things are pretty clear: 1) The bones are quite simply carved out of the matrix and fairly obviously at that and 2) some do not even have that ‘privilege’ have been simply painted onto the rock. You can if you like criticise the various anatomical issues with this (and there are plenty, like the fact that the vertebrae appear to lie in pairs!) but why bother then it’s so obviously a fake?

Taking a tour of the various fossil shops that abound in the area (and selling things that are not of scientific importance like the ubiquitous small lycopteran fish is legal) I was able to find plenty of similarly judiciously ‘improved’ specimens with the use of paints (see the photo below) and some that were *only* paint on a slab. They were not hard to spot oddly enough, though I doubt this stops people buying them and hence the repetition of the idea that people *want* the ‘best’ specimens when of course researchers want the ‘original’ specimens and hence the ongoing problems.

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11 Responses to “Fake fossils in China again – a demonstration”


  1. 1 Zach Miller 01/08/2009 at 2:47 am

    Are there laws against fossil forgery in China? I suppose even if there is, it’s tough to enforce.

    • 2 David Hone 01/08/2009 at 1:44 pm

      Not that I know of, and it would I think be impossible to enforce. How would you distinguish from a museum making casts, or from adding reconstructed bones to a half-complete skeleton from adding details to make a ‘fake’? If noting else you could probably claim artistic rights to do what you wanted to bits of rock and bone.

  2. 5 Alan Kellogg 01/08/2009 at 8:20 am

    It should be obvious, the left hand specimen is related to klingons, what with its two spinal columns and all.

  3. 6 Michael Ogden Erickson 01/08/2009 at 10:28 am

    http://www.dinosaur-museum.org/featheredinosaurs/exhibit.pdf

    In there is a pretty cool fossil from Liaoning. I shows a little dromaeosaur apparently caught in the act of diving after a keichousaur. It seems too good to be true – is it, I wonder?

    • 7 Neil 01/08/2009 at 1:38 pm

      Diving after a keichousaur would involve diving through 100 million years of time or so…but it looks more like a Hyphalosaurus which would make sense.

    • 8 David Hone 01/08/2009 at 1:46 pm

      I don’t think you could say it was diving after anything, but you do get lots of things in association in Liaoning (birds together, turtles with insects etc.) so I don’t see why this should necessarily be a forgery.

  4. 9 Michael Ogden Erickson 02/08/2009 at 5:00 am

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean a keichousaur, I meant a hyphalosaur, I guess it’s what you’d call a “brain fart”. The reason I suspected it was diving after the reptile is because, well, that’s what it looks like it’s doing. If you look at the fossil, the dromaeosaur has its legs thrown back, its tail up, and its arms are posed ready to grab the animal. To me it certainly doesn’t look like just a case of the dromaeosaur being preserved in assotiation with the hyphalosaur. Now, how this moment managed to get preserved, I don’t know.

  5. 10 David Hone 02/08/2009 at 11:30 am

    But that is a normal posture for a great many fossil finds so it’s no surprise to see it here. In fact if you go through the pictures that you linked to there are several more theropods and birds in basically the same posture – they’re not diving, they just preserve that way .

  6. 11 David 25/12/2009 at 8:51 am

    That looks a lot like Australian Aboriginal art!


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