What makes a fossil museum quality?A fossil is any evidence of plant or animal life that dates back at least 10,000 years. Bones and teeth are typically the easiest to naturally preserve, so they are the most common. However, footprints, plants, and even dung can also become fossilized. Fossils of the highest quality are known as museum quality. At Dave’s Rock Shop, we strive to sell only the highest quality specimens, from collector grade to museum display.

How Are Fossils Created?

Most of the time, ancient plants and animals were consumed or worn away by the elements. When conditions were just right, though, they could become preserved. Although there are different forms of fossilization (IE Petrified wood, Amber resin, fossil imprints, or permineralization cell replacement), the most common fossilization process happened when an animal was buried by sand or sediment just after death, protecting its hard parts, such as bones and teeth, from rotting. The soft parts wore away, but the hard parts were gradually surrounded by water from nearby rocks. Over millions of years, the minerals in the water replaced the organic tissue, creating a rock hard fossil.

Where Are Fossils Found?

Fossils are generally found in sedimentary rocks that were formed during the time period in which the specific plant or animal lived. In the case of dinosaur fossils, paleontologists search for sedimentary rocks that formed during the Mesozoic Era. It is best to search for fossils in barren areas known as badlands, where little vegetation hides the fossils.

How Are Fossils Found and Collected?

Paleontologists return to previous fossil collection sites or study geologic maps and satellite photos to find areas where their targeted fossil types are likely to exist. They then carry out a prospecting operation, which consists of slowly hiking through the designated area looking for fossil fragments that are readily visible. They typically cover 5 to 10 miles per day during prospecting.

When a fossil fragment is located, a collector first brushes away loose surface soil to look for more of the fossil. If more is found, the team uses a variety of chisels, hammers, and other tools to remove the rock that is covering it. Cracks and fractures are filled in with a special glue.

The team then digs a trench around the fossil, leaving it encased in the surrounding rock, known as a matrix. The fossil is covered with damp toilet paper and then wrapped in plaster bandages similar to a hard cast. The matrix is snapped away from the rock beneath it, and the cast fossil is packed for shipment.

How Does the Lab Prepare Fossils?

Back in the lab, skilled technicians cut open the plaster cast and remove the matrix using a variety of tools, including dental tools, tiny grinding wheels, and miniature jackhammers. They stabilize the fossils with carefully selected adhesives and consolidants that will not become brittle or discolored over time. They work under a bright light, using precision microscopes to ensure that they do not cause further damage. They also record all the details of their work in case future stabilization or repair is needed.

What Makes a Fossil Museum Quality?

Museum quality is a subjective term rather than a scientific grading tool. In general, museums look for fossils that are well preserved and can be stabilized and repaired enough to be useful for research. Museums typically display their most impressive pieces, such as complete dinosaur skeletons, to the public. At Dave’s Rock Shop, we sell only the highest quality pieces worthy of museum display.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are ready to purchase museum quality fossils and artifacts from a trusted family-owned business, contact Dave’s Rock Shop today at (847) 866-7374. We look forward to becoming your one-stop source for unique rocks and fossils!