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Falsifications: trilobite fossils

The article series on falsifications aims at providing some key insights for recognising falsification using examples. This overview is not exhaustive and might contain errors. We advise to always adopt a critical attitude when buying fossils. This article gives examples of falsified trilobite fossils.

Example 1. Phacopid, replica

The following 'trilobite' is likely a complete fakery. Important tell-tales are the lack of carapace texture and details (e.g. small pustules, facets in the compound eyes, ...), and an unnatural shine. The scratches in the matrix represent preparation marks, but they are placed haphazard, and not in a systematic way like real preparation marks. Moreover, upon closer inspection you can see only 8 (or 9, it's not clear) segments, and that's too few for a Phacopina. There should be 11. The morphology of the pygidium is totally bogus, one of the most prominent indications of fakery here. In the middle of the 2nd and 3rd segment, some pieces of carapace seem to be missing. This could indicate the use of some real segments there in a composite. A more likely possibility is that the original fossil upon which this cast is based, was missing some pieces.

'Phacopid', likely a total fake.

Example 2. Koneprusia, reconstructed

The trilobite below is an interesting case of fakery. For the most part this trilobite, a Koneprusia by the looks of it, seems to be legit. Same goes for the genal, lateral, occipital and pygidial spines, although most have clearly been damaged during preparation (a tell-tale of authenticity). The dorsal spines however, are completely fake. Mind the color- and texture differences.

Koneprusia, largely authentictic, with exception of the dorsal spines

Example 3. Koneprusia, reconstructed

In this case the preparator was confronted with the absence of the left free cheek or librigena. This is a relatively common 'problem'. In this case, the missing lirigena was reconstructed by shaping the rock and staining it. The reconstruction (to the right on the image) is easy to spot by the absence of anatomical details and the deviating colour palette. The associated genal spine is reconstructed as well. The rest of the specimen is authentic. 

Koneprusia with a reconstructed left librigena (at the right side of this photo)

Example 4. Paradoxides, replica

When in doubt, you can try counting the segments, as illustrated by the example below. Not only does the total number of segements need to be correct, also there should be no differences between the left and the right side, with the possible exception of a pathology. Although one would think forgerers would be wary of making such simple mistakes, it is surprisingly commond and a real easy way to spot some fakes. The trilobite shown here is likely a complete fake. Also not the overly repetitive and as such implausible 'preparation marks'.

This 'trilobite' shows a different number of segements at either side.

Example 5. 'Elvis', artwork

The following example is yet again a complete falsification, and a work of art. The most obvious indications are the complete lack of anatomical details, the mortar-type 'shell' texture, obvious air bubbles and chaotic scratches surrounding the trilobite



Example 6. 'Plasticalymene', assembled/manipulated

This trilobite consists partially from authentic parts, but there was a lot of creativity involved in 'reconstructing' this specimen. The thoracopygidium, or the whole of segments and tail section, seems to be authentic, save for the pleural spines. This part likely belongs to Flexicalymene ouzregui. The glabella seems to be authentic too, but originates from a different genus. The other parts of this trilobite, namely the eyes, librigena, genal and pleural spines, are sculpted. 

'Plasticalymene', a nice example of manipulation


Frederik Lerouge

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