Fake Trilobites



Fake Moroccan Trilobites Hall of Shame


Buying fossils on eBay in the early years

The images composited in the "wall of shame" graphic below were taken from among many sent to me by my friends at Fossil Mall, and were either taken from eBay or during annual trips to the Tucson Fossil Show. While hardly exhaustive, the selection does illustrate some of the commonly seen fakes either coming out of Morocco, or those receiving further aesthetic enhancements after being exported. Fossil fakery in Morocco has existed for decades - and fakes are ubiquitously found on the market - that's the bad news. The good news is that the advent of modern preparation equipment and skills in Morocco is resulting in some truly remarkable authentic specimens, and to some extent rendering fakery less lucrative and widespread, i.e., it's harder for the fakes to compete with the authentic.

You can click on the image to pop up a ginormous version of the fakery wall of shame in a separate window. We'll briefly discuss each of the 15 images, and in some cases you can click hot spots on the numbers to see a larger version of each image:

1) Fake phacops trilobites:

This trilobite pair was destructively found to be fakes, and poor ones at that. While associations of different species aren't unheard of, they do tend to be very uncommon. The right-most trilobite mimics a Walliserops, or trident with a short fork; inclusion of such a rarity is easy, and would presumably increase the asking price.

2) Fake Dicranurus monstrosus:

The spiny Dicraurus monstrosus lichid trilobite is one of the more desirable and therefore commonly faked trilobites. This one is probably the poorest one I've ever seen, as the close-up clearly shows (Number 11 shows flats of much better fakes).

3) Trilobite ring-around-the-rosy:

This composite of six fakes of different species is provided for comic relief, and really needs no elaboration.

4 and 5) Andulusiana Bondo Bugs

Because they are large, the Redlichiid Cambropallas (also called Andulusiana) is probably the most faked Moroccan trilobite. Number 4 is entirely cast of some resin or plaster material that is mixed with soil; such fakes are commonly called bondo bugs in the trade, as in auto body bondo filler. Casks are stained to mimic the reddish-to-orangish color typical of Moroccan Cambrian Trilobites. Notice how perfect it looks, a primary tell-tell sign of fakery. Authentic Andulusiana are almost never seen, and basically look so crappy that they are alluring, at least to me. I've seen people write that if they are in a nodule with both positive and negative relief halves, authenticity is assured - NOT - the Moroccans know how to fake this too. To be fair, you can buy fake Andulusiana like number 4 and 5 all day long on eBay, Amazon, and many other places for $50 to $60 per pop (and wholesale, much cheaper). Frankly, that's a good deal, as I'm sure such a replica couldn't be made anywhere in the world but Morocco for such a price.

6 through 8) Beware the Mighty Paradoxides Trilobite Fakes

Ditto everything above for the Paradoxides as for the Andulusiana, except increase the size by about two-fold (and surface area 4-fold. If not entirely bondo, they are composited from parts, with bondo filling in what's missing, Goop used to hide fossil fakeryespecially the genal spines. For practical purposes

One should be wary of post-morocco enhancements applied to fake or heavily restored Andulusiana and Paradoxides, as they can be made quite beautiful and much more authentic looking by the application of organic chemical sealants, such as number 7, which are readily available for treating natural rock, marble and shale. Pigments and thickeners can be mixed with the sealants in a “secret soup formula” to smooth surfaces (filling marks made by instruments and bursting bubbles in drying epoxy) and create an attractive patina. Matte, satin and glossy finished are possible. Numbers 6, 8 and 15 show examples of the outcome, a nice enhancement for a miniscule amount of work and cost. In the cases shown, a glossy finish was opted. Such a glossy finish should send up a red flag for either Cambrian or Ordovician trilobites from Morocco, as deception surely lurks below. For Moroccan Devonian trilobites a glossy finish should send up a yellow flag, as a glossy finish can also be indicative of blasting with sharp grits like silicon dioxide, which make the job faster, but also polishes the exoskeleton.

Further CAUTION, these organic sealers are toxic, so the fossils should be kept out of the mouths of children, pets, and pregnant women.

9 and 10) Pure Fake Fossil Audacity

Images 9 and 10 of a Moroccan fossil dealers tent were taken at the 2011 Tucson Fossil Show, and exemplify the scope and audacity that abounds at this emmense annual venue. Nothing you see is real - they are all 100% fake. Anyone with a modicum of common sense and knowledge of fossils would know this. Anyone with knowledge of fossils would know that the multiple mortality plates of Andulusiana and Paradoxides borders on nonsense, even if the fossils themselves are real, which they almost never are. I have spoken at length with highly knowledgeable individuals who unanomously state, authentic Andulusiana and Paradoxides death assemblages are almost non-existent! A few examples can be seen, however, at the Fossil Co-Op in Tucson.

Respectfully submitted, Michael Allen

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