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October 1 2012

Preparing fossils: the fine art of extracting bones from the rocks

It is easy to marvel at a beautiful fossil specimen that is illustrated in a scientific article, in a book or online, or is on display in a museum, and overlook the time-consuming and often painstaking work that went into getting it into that condition. Exhibitions and documentaries often show the dramatic scenes of fossils wrapped in protective plaster jackets being dragged or even airlifted out of the field site, but then mention only in passing the weeks or even months of effort required to extract the bones (or shells or whatever) from the rock.

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