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FAKE CHINESE FOSSILS

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FAKE CHINESE FOSSILS - Their Proliferation in Today's Market

Exposing the Fraud of Unscrupulous Fossil Dealers and their Magnificent-Looking Fossils

Perhaps no other source for fake fossils has posed such a problem as exists today with fossils from China.  We must preface this section to say the fake Chinese fossil market is becoming increasingly sophisticated and changing so rapidly that any fossil now originating in China should be approached with caution.  This section deals with only the tip of a massive and growing "iceberg".   

Each year, thousands of trusting buyers are duped by both inexpensive and very expensive, highly realistic fakes.  More troubling, even scientists have fallen prey to the extraordinary craftsmanship of the Chinese fake fossil artists.  In 1999, highly recognized scientists along with National Geographic magazine presented an amazing new discovery of a feathered dinosaur discovered in the Liaoning Province of China.  The bird with a dinosaur's tail was named ARCHAEORAPTOR.  A year later, it was found to be a clever fake.

China has an immense scientific wealth of genuine fossil deposits.  Despite SEVERE Chinese cultural property laws (up to and including the death penalty) that forbid the export or trade in fossils, one can see numerous Chinese fossils for sale in shops, shows, on fossil dealer websites and in online auctions such as EBay (consistently THE highest incidents of fraudulent auctions).  With the threat of such strict laws, one has to wonder "How can there be so many Chinese fossils making out of the country?"  Simple logic is all that is needed.... THEY ARE FAKES!  The Chinese have found it easier (and safer) to just MAKE these fossils.  There is no worry or risk to a Chinese dealer when they ship a fake out of the country! 

Most Chinese fossils are found in remote villages where extreme poverty is the norm.  The financial rewards to fake or substantially fabricate rare fossils they are familiar with is akin to winning the lottery for most farmers in these regions.  With a history and culture of incredible craftsmanship dating back to the Neolithic Age, today, the Chinese have focused their skills on mastering the fabrication of fossils.  Each year, countless fake Chinese fossils of ALL kinds are sold to ignorant (and dishonest) fossil dealers who then in turn, sell to trusting customers.  Many of these outright fakes have, and continue to, sell for thousands of dollars! 

Only the most experienced fossil dealers who possess necessary test and preparation equipment and who are EXTENSIVELY EXPERIENCED WITH ALL TECHNIQUES OF FOSSIL RESTORATION AND FABRICATION should be trusted to know the difference when it comes to fake fossils of ANY source or type!  Very few fossil dealers have any more knowledge in this than the very customers that rely on them!  Do NOT be afraid to ask your fossil dealer about his or her PERSONAL and immediate experience in fossil preparation, restoration and fabrication.  If they tell you they do not PERSONALLY possess MANY YEARS OF EXTENSIVE first-hand experience in artistic techniques and application in fossil fabrication and restoration, and that they mainly rely on THEIR sources, avoid these dealers at all costs!!!  These fossil dealers likely have several specimen in their inventory that they have no clue as to their true authenticity regardless of any guarantee or assurances that they will provide you.


The variety and magnitude of fake Chinese fossils that are sold today is endless.  Today, the Chinese will fake ANYTHING in their quest to offer something that is new and exciting to the already-flooded fake market.  As of this posting, we observed a most interesting creation.  There is a dealer on EBay who recently sold a "fossil rat" on a slab fabricated out of nothing more than a horrible fish fossil.  The head and body of the fish was altered to look like a rat and the arms and other extremities were carved and painted on the rock.  This worthless fake sold for $3,010.00!  As the famous quote goes, "There's a sucker born every minute."  In this case, the auction involved 8 bidding "suckers" fighting for this one.

You can see where the slab on the left side is a darker gray color and ends about where the box is around the fish head.  On close-ups of this fossil (posted in the following pages of this section) you can also see unique anatomical characteristics of a fish skull and fish vertebrae with thin spiny ribs that only a fish skeleton would have, not a rat!!!  Simply amazing.  No doubt this fossil will end up proudly displayed on someone's shelf or worse yet, offered for a substantial price by some foolish or crooked dealer! 


TYPES OF FAKE CHINESE FOSSILS

There are two main types of "FAKE" fossils coming out of China - those are that complete outright fakes and those that have a small amount of real fossil but the majority of the piece is fabricated (and often into a fantasy or non-related species).  Since both types are worthless, then we use the same term of "FAKE" for both in this article.  The fraudulent Chinese fossil market offers both types as being GENUINE. 

We have observed expertly done Chinese fossil fakes being sold on both Ebay and a few large fossil dealer websites.  Many of these CHINESE FAKE FOSSILS have sold for THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS with several selling for WELL OVER TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!  Amazingly, many are being sold shortly after being listed! 

In a February 2000 issue of "New Scientist", an article focused on Chinese fossil fakery (New Scientist, "F is for fake," 19 February 2000).  Several highly experienced paleontologists expressed extreme caution about the authenticity of Chinese fossils.  Most famous amongst them was internationally known paleontologist Dr. Larry Martin of the University of Kansas.  Perhaps his comment offers the most sobering warning to all fossil collectors and prospective buyers of Chinese fossils.  Dr. Martin stated "at the moment, I don't trust any of these specimens until I see the X rays!". 

The problem areas of Chinese fake fossils to watch for changes every year.  This list is not meant to be a comprehensive one but where we have seen some serious issues in the fossil trade.  Known areas of Chinese fossil fakes are listed below BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO:

  • ANY CHINESE FOSSIL SKELETON POSED ON MATRIX OR LOOSE, SHOULD BE HIGHLY SUSPECT!

  • BIRD FOSSILS
  • PTEROSAUR FOSSILS
  • DINOSAUR SKELETONS AND SKULLS
  • DINOSAUR CLAWS
  • DINOSAUR EGGS
  • MAMMAL SKELETONS AND SKULLS (Especially SABER CATS)
  • KEICHOUSAURS AND OTHER AQUATIC REPTILES
  • ICHTHYOSAURS
  • FROG FOSSILS
  • INSECT AND OTHER ARTHROPOD FOSSILS ON SLABS
  • TURTLE FOSSILS
  • CROCODILE FOSSILS

HOW THEY FAKE AND ENHANCE THE FOSSILS

The techniques are both ingenious and varied as to what the Chinese do to fabricate and substantially enhance fossils.  Most Chinese fossils are made by a combination of these processes.  These techniques include:

1) Using real materials (bones, teeth, body parts) to embed in glue, resin and plaster to create a complete fake fossil composite on a slab or piece of matrix.  (i.e. using modern chicken or frog bones glued to matrix to make various skeleton fossils).

2) Crushing genuine fossil bone and mixing with glue to fabricate body parts, skulls and skeletons that appear genuine with the proper color.

3) Casting, painting and sculpting a fossil on a slab or in three-dimension and even breaking it and then repairing it to appear genuine or give the appearance of calcite veins running through the fabrication.

4) Blending three-dimensional skulls (even using modern skulls!) of different animals together with artificially added real teeth to create fake skulls of rare, impressive animals. (especially a problem with Saber Cat skulls)  This has been done by adding genuine fossil teeth to modern skulls or attaching animal teeth to a composite of modern skulls such as pig, dog, horse, cat, etc. to create new exotic or rare species.

5) Assembling genuine fossils of unrelated specimens together to make a complete, impressive fossil.  The Chinese fossil fakers do this ALL THE TIME!  Even the dinosaur eggs are faked by creating a dummy egg-shaped core and gluing on a mosaic of unrelated fossil eggshell pieces that once were part of hundreds of different fossil eggs (sometimes you can still see the varying colors of the unrelated pieces!) together like assembling a picture puzzle, to make what looks like a complete egg!


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