Expert: 80% fossils in Chinese museums are fakes

By Lin Liyao
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, January 13, 2011
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The sham Qian Ichthyosauria fossil is made by three fossil parts. [Beijing Daily]

The authentic Qian Ichthyosauria fossil is broken. [Beijing Daily]

About 80 percent of marine reptile specimens now on display in Chinese museums have been "altered or artificially combined to varying degrees", according to a marine reptile expert in the latest edition of Science magazine.

Li Chun, an associate researcher of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Palaeoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is disturbed by the sham fossils and the damage they do to science and children's science education.

"Fake fossils are like poisoned milk powder that injure and insult visitors," Li told Beijing Sci-tech Report, as he saw many children taking pictures with fake fossils. The thought of science being popularized by inauthentic fossils causes him great heartache.

Li hopes that the Regulations on the Protection of Paleontologic Fossils, which went into effect Jan. 1, will stop the overflow of fake fossils in Chinese museums.

"It's essential for both scientific research and credibility," Li said.

Fossils are considered the most important basis for scientific research; however, many fossils in Chinese museums have become inauthentic due to excessive modification, or improper attempts to "fix" the fossils, Li explained.

To the untrained eye, many fossils appear authentic and clear, but in fact they were modified by people who lack professional knowledge and the exquisite skill required. They destroy the original forms and biological structures of the fossils, which devalues them for research. Even worse, some fossils in Chinese museums are scrambled, misidentified, or even entirely artificial.

According to national regulations, only authorized organizations are permitted to partake in the fossil trade for all species of vertebrate, but illegal fossil mining and smuggling still exist in many places.

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