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Any experiences with fossils from the North Sea?


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TeethCollector

When I was searching through the forum, I read some threads telling that fossils from Sea must be desalinated and coated very well, otherwise, it will break down in several months or so.

 

I want to see your experiences with fossils from northern sea. Did your north sea fossils break-down? Or it is just okay?

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Fossildude19

Did you mean the North Sea?

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TeethCollector
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Fossildude19 said:

Did you mean the North Sea?

 

Yes. The sea in the Atlantic Ocean, Europe. Basically, I want to ask about any Cenozoic fossils from saltwater.. 

Edited by TeethCollector
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  • TeethCollector changed the title to Any experiences with fossils from the North Sea?
TeethCollector

Any experiences with saltwater fossils? 

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pachy-pleuro-whatnot-odon

Although @sjaak more regularly hunts and collects from the North Sea, I believe, I do have some experience with fossils from the North Sea myself, being Dutch. But, yes, these fossils should be desalinated in order to prevent atmospheric/ambient water in the air from pulling on the salt in your specimen, thereby eroding it into dust over time.

 

The thing is these fossils have been exposed to salt sea water for a long time, and have, during this time, absorbed quite a bit of salt. As the air around you contains a small amount of water in gaseous form, the salt in the fossil will try to mix with it and will be pulled to the surface of the fossil. This process, which is caused by a difference in salinity between the fossil and the air around it, is dependent on relative humidity, as this influences the "ambient salinity" of the air and will therefore generate various periods in which the salt is pulled from your fossil, interspersed by periods in which salt is redeposited into cracks both on top and within the fossil. With time, the accumulated salt in these cracks will break the fossil apart. Desalination removes the salts from the fossil specimen without recondensation, and therefore reduces the stress on the fossil. However, salt may also have been removed from places where it acted by way of structural support - which is why it's a good idea to treat your desalinated fossil - after careful and thorough drying - with a consolidant, preferably one with good penetration into the fossil itself.

 

On the commercial market, I don't think you'd need to worry too much, as reputable fossil dealers will be aware of this issue and ensure proper cleaning and conservation. However, I once did have the experience of almost loosing two chunks of mammoth tusk because I assumed that they had been cleaned/desalinated by the people I bought them from. That is, most mammoth molars and other mammoth fossils going around in the Netherlands will have been properly treated (my feeling at least), so when I picked up these tusks on a flea market on the cheap, I assumed this to be the case here too. They were a bit dirty, though, and I didn't have a proper place to display them, so I stored them away. When I next had a look at them a couple of years later, they had started to peel. So that's when I realised that I needed to desalinate them and consolidate what was left. In the end, I don't think there was too much harm done, but the risk is certainly there (however, be aware that the way fossil ivory is consolidated differs from that for fossil bone)...

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Posted (edited)

I agree with Pachy. Apart from the salt most fossils from the North Sea are not fully fossilised. The problem is mainly with mammoth mollars and tusks, which have a structure which makes them vulnerable, especially in case of sudden temperature changes. Desalination won’t stop this. So mammoth mollars and tusk should be treated with a consolidant as most commercial traders and collectors do. I find this less problematic with bones. I let these soak in sweet water for some time and these are usually stable. If needed I treat them with paraloid, which also stops the seemingly endless supply of sand streaming out of the bone.

Edited by sjaak
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pachy-pleuro-whatnot-odon

Just to prevent confusion, when Niels writes "sweet water" he means "fresh water" (i.e., not some kind of sugar water). In Dutch we call fresh water "zoet water", which translates to "sweet water" ;)

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Yes, you’re right. But maybe I can try some sugerwater to see if it has some hidden conservational  features.

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