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fossils sales, etc.
i suspect that most people who have commented on this issue feel
pretty much the same way (assuming that i am reading everyone's posts
correctly). one thing, however, seem very obvious to me: that we
need to agree on what constitute the following issues:
1. what is proper treatment of sites in terms of preserving the most
information possible for future generations, and present day science.
2. what "wise use" implies.
3. what the code of ethics should be for all collectors (whether amateur
I speak here as a geochemist who often dates fossils (although admittedly
more modern ones that the dinosaurs). my biggest problem in dating most
sites that have been collected by either amateurs or professionals is that
they did not leave enough material in the site or that they did not
record the exact location of the fossil precisely enough.
let me explain in more detail. when many sites were collected in the
late 1800's, and up until about 1970, fossils were removed, cleaned
very carefully to remove all the attached matrix, and then coated with
preservative to protect them. the technique i use requires that i know
the detailed geochemistry of the matrix that surrounded the fossil before
it was cleaned. i can sometimes get this by knowing the exactly locations
(and i mean exact to the centimetre!) where it was found, or by scraping
off that matrix. if the locations were not recorded precisely enough,
option one is out. if the matrix has been removed option 2 is gone too.
even if iget lucky and i can figure out the matrix geochemistry by either
1 or 2, i may be defeated by the fact the fossil has been preserved, which
can add some of those chemicals i am tracing to the fossil, making it impossible
to know what is original and which is anthropogenic. the point to this whole
example is that we never know what techniques may be available in 5 or 50 years.
we do know, however, from our recent experiences, that as much needs to be
saved as possible. moreover, even the fossil experts, paleontologists, may
not realize everything that needs to be saved or the things that should not
be done to some fossils!
let me challenge the dinosaur loving community to develop a code of ethics for
fossil collectors that we can use as an educational item to help teach
the lay public about how to preserve our limited fossil resources.
Bonnie Blackwell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dept of Geology, (718) 997-3332
Queens College, City University of New York, fax: 997-3349
Flushing, NY 11367-1597