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What is a fossil, Part 2

Further to an ongoing discussion on what exactly constitutes a fossil,
I'd like to summararize the issues and answers (off and on list) so far:

The purpose is to clarify issues and to arrive at a simple set of terms
that will be useful and as devoid of controversy as is possible.

Integral to any discussion whatsoever of the appropriate modes of
exploration, documentation, and ultimate placement of a fossil (whether
through outright sale or placement with an institution) is a defintion
of exactly what a fossil is:

The term "fossil" as it used both by professionals and amateurs is often

Suggested qualifications include:

Other qualifications include:
        age of the fossil
        method of "fossilization" or "preservation"

There is a wide diversity of opinion about the age of material which
should be considered significant. In the loosest definition, any living
material that is preserved (albeit only a month old) can be considered a
fossil. Clearly, material of recent vintage is not of the same
significance as material that is millions of years old either from a
scientific or a commercial viewpoint. 

Some useful nomenclature must be evolved in order to distinguish readily
among the various viewpoints.

Based up a variety of responses to questions on commercial
"exploitation" of fossils, it is clear that emotions run most strongly
along certain lines: most specifically, there are powerful feelings
about fossils of vertebrates that are signifcantly old (eg. 65 million
years or more). These "hidden definitions" of "fossil" are not always
stated outright, but rather implied by the generic use of the simple
term "fossil."

Various people have suggested more specific defintions, but with a few
e-mails, the specificity disappears, and the term "fossil" re-asserts

It goes without saying that any discussion of regulation must,
necesarily, include a clear definition of that which is to be regulated.

Responses are invited either on or off-list as people feel is
appropriate: hopefully, they will focus on a way to simplify and clarify
these terms.


E. Summer

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