What do we do with fossils like this?
The Messel fossils are found between layers of oil-shale (arrow).
Fossils from Messel must be prepared in a very special way, because the oil-shale in the quarry contains large amounts of water. It dries out and crumbles when it is brought into contact with air, and then the fossils will be damaged or destroyed. To prevent this from happening, one side of the fossils from Messel are embedded in polyester or epoxy.
Step by step
- The oil-shale is carefully removed from one side of the fossil with a preparation needle or a scalpel
- A 2-3 cm high wall is built around the fossil. The shale is covered in plastic in order to keep it moist, while the fossil itself is dried – perhaps with a hair drier – until the bones become a lighter colour. The plastic is then removed from the shale, and a layer (max. 1 cm thick) of polyester or epoxy is poured in.
- The polyester/epoxy is allowed to harden for about 12 hours.
- When fully hardened, the block is turned upside-down
- The shale is carefully removed from the underside. The preparation of Ida is so meticulously done that it must have taken months to remove the shale and stabilize her bones.
- Finally, the fossil is lying in profile on the polyester, completely freed from the shale.