28 February 2024


As reported by The Guardian:
Generations of palaeontologists have marvelled over a 280m-year-old fossilised lizard-like reptile, Tridentinosaurus antiquus, discovered in the Italian Alps in 1931.

Thought to be one of the best-preserved specimens of the species, palaeontologists believed there were even traces of carbonised skin on the surface. Now modern imaging techniques have revealed that this treasured fossil is, in fact, a carving covered in black paint.

Dr Valentina Rossi, from University College Cork, in Ireland, and her team used ultraviolet photography to look beneath the paint. Instead of finding the hoped-for soft tissues, they found an elaborate fake. Although exactly when it was made and who crafted it remains unknown, Tridentinosaurus joins a long list of fossil fakes, including the Piltdown Man and Archaeoraptor, to name just two. Ancient woodlice-like sea creatures known as trilobites were a particular favourite for faking, and natural history museums around the world are increasingly discovering counterfeits in their collections.

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