Thursday, February 22, 2024

A forgery, but... why???


I'm puzzled by this report.

A 280 million-year-old fossil thought to be a well-preserved specimen of an ancient reptile is largely a forgery, according to new research.

The fossil, initially discovered in the Italian Alps in 1931, has the scientific name Tridentinosaurus antiquus. Scientists thought the dark, deep outline of the lizardlike body encased in rock was skin and soft tissue, and they considered the fossil to be a puzzle piece for understanding early reptile evolution.

. . .

A new, detailed analysis has revealed that the dark color of the fossil isn’t preserved genetic material ... researchers determined that the body outline was carved in the rock and painted with “animal charcoal,” a commercial pigment used about 100 years ago that was made by burning animal bones. The carving also explained why the specimen appeared to retain such a lifelike shape, rather than appearing flatter like a genuine fossil.

. . .

Intriguingly, there are actual bones within the fossil. The hind limbs, although in poor condition, are real, and there are also traces of osteoderms, or scalelike structures. Now, the researchers are trying to determine the exact age of the bones and what animal they belonged to.

. . .

Rossi and her team can’t be entirely sure that the forgery was done on purpose.

“We believe that, since some of the bones are visible, someone tried to expose more of the skeleton, by excavating more or less where someone would expect to find the rest of the animal,” Rossi said. “The lack of proper tools for preparing the hard rock did not help and the application of the paint in the end was perhaps a way to embellish the final work. Unfortunately, whether all of this was intentional or not, it did mislead many experts in interpreting this fossil as exceptionally preserved.”

There's more at the link.

To my mind, this discovery raises even more questions than the original discovery.

  • Who did it, and why?  It obviously wasn't an attempt to gain publicity for an individual, because there was no fuss at the time of the "discovery" naming any individual as having found it.  If it wasn't for publicity, why did the researcher(s) responsible not simply document what they'd done, or simply discard the sample along with other debris of no scientific value?  I don't think anyone would have complained, given that they didn't destroy anything worthwhile in the process.
  • Why did nobody in the nearly a century since the "discovery" ask more questions about it?  Why was it left until 2021 to begin an investigation?  Clearly, it wasn't considered an important enough issue by previous generations of researchers.  What drew their attention to it so long after the fact?
  • Where did the actual bones discovered during the investigation come from?  Was there an Italian Kentucky Fried Chicken equivalent way back then, and did the originators of the "fossil" simply discard their dinner bones along with the ruined research material?  Did the investigation discover and analyze "eleven herbs and spices" on the fossilized remains?

I doubt we'll ever find answers . . . but it's an intriguing discovery.

Perhaps we should ask the same investigative team to take a long, hard look at the present inhabitants of the White House.  Are there, perhaps, fake fossils to be found there too?



Bob said...

Nope, the fossils at the White House are for real.

Jen said...

They were probably hypothesizing what the actual creature looked like, using Ivory Black, which was, with lamp black, the most common black pigment at the time. Nobody a hundred years ago had our heightened reverence for artifacts, and keeping them intact. This is why so many older archeological sites are just stripped; a lot of the contents were just carted off as souvenirs. That they altered this fossil is unsurprising.
Incidentally, the same attitudes also applied to works of art that we now revere. It's amazing how many were just clumsily altered to suit the current owners' taste.

Anonymous said...

Pushing the antichristian lie of evolution? Wouldn't be the first time....

Weetabix said...

I speculate it was a grandpa constructing a fun "Easter egg" for his grandkids. He told his neighbors, so it was never a big deal. Then the people involved originally forgot.

Aesop said...

"Trust the science" has been an ongoing joke for centuries.

Google Piltdown Man.