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).
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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