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Re: Laws on fossil collecting

On Friday, June 8, 2001, at 01:38 PM, Fabio Marco Dalla Vecchia wrote:

Ilja wrote:
"From what I gathered (Marco or Fabio, correct me if I'm wrong) it was
indeed figured to be 'just a bird' by some collector. He then figured it to
be a dinosaur and presented it to the authorities. Then it became the
subject of a power struggle between several instances, causing it to lay
about for another couple of years."

You asked for correction, if any, and I answer.
Actually, many of the friends in the list have only a theoretical view of
the problem and a "romantic" view of reality (I am not talking about Ilja).
Probably this is due to their young age, lacking of direct experience with
fossil collection managing, and direct knowledge of life in countries
different from their own country, and mine is NOT an attack against them.

Fossils are not safe either in a Museum or public institution in general(a
simple example already discussed here: bombing) nor in a private collection.

Actually, their preservation depends upon the PERSON not the institution.

It happens that the fossil in the Museum falls from the hand of the
careless Curator, engaged by public competition and become paleontologist
just to have a salary, but without any true interest in that kind of
"stones". He/she is thinking about his/her sons, the next football match or
the new car he/she is going to buy. Ooops! Another broken "stone". No
punishments, no administrative consequences. Who does it care? The
administration of the Museum? Politicians? Newspapers? The unaware public
opinion? Just another broken "stone". This is just an example. Are you sure
that fossils, all around the world, are more protect in public institutions
than in private collections?

I know about a fossil extremly important for the scientific community which
has been put in a fruit box covered by newspapers and forgot for a couple
of years in the uppermost shelf, covered by dust, in a storehouse of
archeological material. This by a government institution and just because
people engaged in the government institutions do not care about
paleontological material (oh, yes, of course they care AFTER an article on
Nature!). This is not illegal, it is just bad for us. Who does it care? The
administration of the State? The President of the Republic? Politicians?
Newspapers? The unaware public opinion?

I know also about fossils very important for the scientific community and
general knowledge which are kept undescribed in a drawer of a public
institution for 10-20 years just because the paleontologist of the public
institution does not find - for many reasons, good or not - the time to
describe them and, of course, the fossils are not available to other
paleontologists in the meantime.

Thus, I am sorry to be so rough, but please stop with childish, "romantic"
and merely theoretical point of views. Reality is much more complicated.

About more SPECIFIC examples, I would prefer to be silent. Remember that
there could be legal consequences for this kind of things. I do not feel
free to express my opinion and share my experience about some "thorny"
fossils. And there are persons checking messages of this list to relate to
other persons. Saying something here could be dangerous.
Let's discuss about dinosaur scientific or divulgative matter, if possible.


I totally agree that this is a place far too public to discuss specific exploits. I initially laid out the situation in Italy just as an example of the wide variety of European laws on the collection and preservation of fossils, but the discussion is increasingly focusing on the example rather than the problem.

The issue is not by any means a theoretical one, knowing your legal way about in the country you (either professionally or in the course of a hobby) are digging fossils can only contribute to the professional standard of paleontology as a whole. I think we should do everything to avoid the sort of distrust three centuries of looting has created in archaeology.

Not many paleontologists have the time, interest or expertise to delve into legal issues; therefore, I think a central place of reference could be extremely useful for everyone.