Preparation of a fossil dinosaur

Amy Davidson


In 1994 the nearly complete fossil remains of a new species of oviraptorid dinosaur, Citipati osmolskae, were found in the Gobi desert of Mongolia. The preparation of this important specimen for study and publication posed numerous challenges due to the extreme fragility of the fossil and the request by the scientists that the bones be removed from the matrix and disarticulated as much as possible.

Collaboration with objects conservators in the Anthropology Department of the American Museum of Natural History proved an important part of the project. The combination of traditional fossil preparation techniques with the materials and approaches of object conservation resulted in several innovative solutions and proved a valuable learning experience for everyone involved.

The treatment of the fossil involved removing it from the matrix using a wide variety of tools and techniques. The bones were consolidated with Butvar B76 and joins were made with Acryloid B72. During the preparation and consolidation process glass beads, tin foil, plaster bandage, fiberglass and cellulose nitrate were used to create a variety of temporary supports. Permanent supports for the most fragile areas were fashioned using the sandy matrix mixed with Butvar B76.

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2003 | Washington DC | Volume 10