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Moroccan Trilobite Fossils Preparation


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Ok, after reading some topics here I figured posting a few photos of the trilobite preparation progress would be a good way to start and maybe help educate new bug collectors and others interested in trilobites. Maybe even help a bit with questions like "is this trilobite real?"... I am sure a lot of you have already posted many topics like this in the past and I know there are many more experienced collectors and prepers around here, which can maybe contribute? It`s good that we can learn from each other this way. I recognize some familiar nicks here on this forum also, some of which I am familiar with their work already from other media, my respect and cudos to all!

Anyway... Fossils are found in different rocks (matrix), from very hard Moroccan or Scandinavian matrix to soft shale typical for some localities in USA. Each matrix and different factors mostly demand a different preparation approach, but what all bugs have in common is how they are found - by spliting and breaking rocks! A lot of hard work in that process alone, so each bug deserves respect simply for that fact! Usually trilobites are found in two or more parts of the rock, since mostly the only way to find one is to break the rock! All the parts are then attached and carefully preped... Some are easy to prep (not as easy as one would think though, takes some preping experience and special equipment/tools), other are difficult and take some skills.

Another thing almost all fossils have in common is - careful preparation work takes a lot of time. Not a rule however, a simple example, Eldredgeops rana from NY in soft shale can be cleaned (sandblasted) in a matter of minutes, while a similar species from Morocco in medium hard matrix will take many hours of careful cleaning, hard matrix and delicate spiny species even more...

Rare spiny species in hard matrix are delicate to prep, even preserving most details on simple common species in not simple. Time consuming task! Among factors as size, rarity, species, color, location, these are all price factors! Was reading some comments about high asking prices of moroccan fossils in the western market... A rip off? Many years ago, when I started collecting and I didn`t know anything about fossils, trilobites or how they are found and preped, my toughts about pricing were similar: why are nice looking trilobites so expensive? Now I have years of experience preping fossils and still learning and it is my opinion that most decent preped moroccan bugs comming from Morocco are cheap! Especially compared to US or Russian material. That is a good thing for collectors, but when you are talking about a butchered specimen for 10$ or 50$ and advertise it as a good deal, top rate specimen for pennies, to help you from being ripped off and compare it to a 100$+ or 1000$ (in case of rare spiny species) carefully preped specimen, consider all the differences, time and skills involved... Or perhaps try to prep one yourself and then sell it for 10$? If you prep trilobites yourself and buy unpreped specimens you already know that unpreped trilobites are not cheap, mostly cost more or about the same as rough and butchered specimens, depending on the species, size, locality etc. If you fossilhunt, prep and sell yourself you will probably understand what I mean with preparation time is underrated.

Ok, enough rant... Step by step for complete newbies also:

In Morocco trilobites are found in remote couches where many layers are commercially excavated for trilobites and the location can only be reached using an ATV. If you have any experience collecting in the field, you can imagine digging and splitting numerous rocks and detecting a cross section of a promising specimen among other remains and fragments is not easy! Sometimes in the heat! Hats off to moroccan collectors, some are true experts for finding and preping these tiny prehistoric creatures! With some experience you can tell and ID the species hidding in the matrix just by looking at the cross section, matrix type and details shown in the break...

When preparation beigns the point is to remove bits of matrix without damaging the body/exoskeleton hidden in matrix. Process which is normally done with an air scribe and needles. And in case of carefull preping quite slow. Then gluing pieces back together like a jigsaw, more needle work etc. There is no polishing, drilling or grinding involved! Powered by compressed air an air-scribe operates like a miniature jackhammer, chipping through the rock that covers the fossils. Too much force or a simple mistake and parts of fossil chip away too. When the matrix is thinned sufficiently, the air scribe’s impacts often cause the last layers of rock to pop off the fossils, unless the matrix is sticky and extreme care is needed removing the last micrometers of matrix. Air-scribes of "different sizes" can be used for different jobs, different stone hardness, preservation... Mostly you have to move in close to get separation between the fossil and matrix, especially if the matrix is sticky or softer. Hard to give an exact estimate of the distance (everything looks larger under the bino, even mistakes), but mostly that means working tenth and hundredths of a millimeter away from the trilobite and removing matrix bit by bit. It involves a lot of time and patience... Sandblasting should make this procces a little faster, but also damage or remove some detials from the bug. I work with scribes only, so all the specimens presented here were preped with needles. Air-scribes only... For more delicate structures, such as long fragile 3D preped spines a sandblaster unit is recommended, still on my wishlist atm...

Some photo progress, with photos speaking about the process involved for themself below.

Devonian (Pragian) Moroccan trilobite Leonaspis sp. prep progress:

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Edited by aeon.rocks
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Regarding questions like "is this trilobite real?" or what to watch out for if you purchase fossils.... Educate yourself about fossils you are collecting! There are some good advices and articles available online regarding fake fossils and restorations. Here is a link to a tutorial written by experts Jens Koppka, Heiko Sonntag & Horst Burkhard on trilobite fakes: http://www.fossilmuseum.net/collect/faketrilobites3.htm

Most fakes are easy to spot, when you know what to look for. Repairs are another story, some can be a little harder to see... Takes a good UV light (longwave and shortwave, since most restorations are getting better and don`t fluorescent in some wavelengths) and magnification to spot repairs. Acetone will also reveal most restorations, but also remove/destroy the restored parts (will not harm the real fossil parts however). Natural devonian bugs have black exoskeleton, sometimes with different shades of brown, red, yellow, grey, green colors, depending on mineralization and weathering. So colors can be problematic to judge by... Mostly all bugs are found by spliting rocks, a crack running through the specimen and matrix can be a good sign of authenticy. And all natural carefully preped specimens exhibit tiny details, such as spines, tiny tuberculation, lines, cracks, induvidual eye lenses etc., details depending on each species, which can help with authentication and ID.

Some trilobites were blind, some had complex eye structures, mostly exhibiting 2 different types of eyes: holochroal and schizochroal. Remains of induvidual lenses are a good sing of authenticy and the first thing you should look for with species known to have complex eyes. Here is an example of preparation progress of specimen with holochroal eyes.

Paralejurus spatuliformis, Pragian age, Ihandar Formation:

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Edited by aeon.rocks
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And here an example of prep progress of devonian moroccan trilobite Zlichovaspis with shizochroal eyes:

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...more next time! ;)

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Excellent preps. Those specimens look very familiar indeed! ^_^

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Thanks Fred&ZiggieCie. These were fun to prep. Yes, they look familiar, but not shared here before, figured more prep documentation like this would be nice on this forum aswell, since such information can be used to help appreciate fossils more, understand and see the process and solve authenticy questions. :)

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Fine, I'll bite and share a recent prep here, too. This is a pair of Diademaproetus from the late Emsian. Soms small parts of one of the trilobites were slightly damaged by weathering, other than that, they are well preserved. Weathering has a large influence on how the matrix behaves, a little is sometimes a good thing, but too much makes a prep quite tricky. The matrix becomes too soft.

There is a partial cephalon of a third specimen as well.

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Amazing specimen and as usual excellent prep, Fred! :drool: Thank you for sharing!

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Fine, I'll bite and share a recent prep here, too. This is a pair of Diademaproetus from the late Emsian. Soms small parts of one of the trilobites were slightly damaged by weathering, other than that, they are well preserved. Weathering has a large influence on how the matrix behaves, a little is sometimes a good thing, but too much makes a prep quite tricky. The matrix becomes too soft.

There is a partial cephalon of a third specimen as well.

Awesome, Fred. Your attention to detail is apparent.

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Ok, another story... This is another devonian trilobite from Morocco: Coltraneia oufatenensis (Morzadec, 2001), member of the order Phacopida from the upper Emsian of Jbel Oufaten. Specimen with characteristic eyes full of eye facets, tricky to set free of matrix (left some inbetween lenses and few other spots untill a possibility to sandblast presents). These eyes probably produced a wide field view to scan for potential predators. Right genal spine is a bit disarticulated and the specimen shows some signs of possible bite mark on the pygidium, as well as a few missing spine tips, other than that well preserved.

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Figured it would be nice to show a few different species, so I will try to post from time to time. Here is a Reedops cephalotes, another member of the order Phacopida, from the Pragian of Atchana, Morocco. Seemed like an easy prep at first, but Reedops obviously liked sticky matrix. An interesting specimen which shows not all devonian trilobites from Morocco are black. ^_^

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Aeon, thx for starting this thread, and Fred for joining in. Many people ask about prepping out Bugs and other fossils. Now we have a place to refer them too so they can see that with patients the secrets can be revealed.

Idea, show photos of the tools you both use for prepping as some of the new young members and older members, also have asked about prepping and the tools used. This is a great how to.

:goodjob:

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Hi Ziggie, the specimens shown were preped using a few different air-scribes and a bino, pretty much basic. Here is an old shot of my work area setup, which should give an idea. Holder looks a bit more crowded now, will post another photo of tools when possible.

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Thx Aeon, like I mentioned, there are some young members 12-16 asking for info on prepping. They are the future for carrying on the love and care of fossils.

Great work up there.

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And here an example of prep progress of devonian moroccan trilobite Zlichovaspis with shizochroal eyes:

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...more next time! ;)

Absolutely gorgeous!!

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Ziggie, here is another shot of the tools, showing the needle tips which are used to remove the matrix bit by bit... Not sure if "advertising" is allowed here, but there are several different types of air-scribes available from different suppliers and manufacturers in US and EU, which are used for different jobs and different prep stages, from rough to fine. I`m mostly using one of these most of the time, the other more or less just help with some specific task, as i.e. rough matrix removal, details or shaping matrix. Box helps to keep the debries in one place...

Powered by compressed air an air-scribe operates like a miniature jackhammer, chipping through the matrix that covers the fossils. Removing matrix from the fossil takes some time, dozen of hours or more, some skills, calm hand and patience. The experts with sandblasting units here could probably show and tell also more about those, it`s a completely different technique, but as far as I know mostly used for finish, mostly... Anyway, I guess these preping tools were also shown or mentioned on this forum before by experts here.

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Since I am at it... Here is a small Kettnerapsis prescheri, member of the order Lichida, family Odontopleuridae from the Pragian of Jbel Issimour, Morocco. A bit similar to Kettneraspis williamsi from Black Cat Mt. in US.

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Edited by aeon.rocks
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  • 7 months later...

Almost forgot about this. So, on we go... With two of very commonly sold early devonian Moroccan trilobites in the market - Hollardops mesocristata (Jbel Oufatene) and a Phacopsid - Barrandeops granulops (Foum Zguid). Details such as induvidual eye lenses and granulation are a good sign for authenticty when buying such species...

Hollardops prep

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Barrandeops prep

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Edited by aeon.rocks
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Wow! some really amazing stuff here!

RB

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Just trilobites! After reading about another "is this real" topic I remembered about this post again, such advice helped me when I started collecting, so I hope this topic helps someone else a little. But, yeah, it`s always fun to see these little beauties nature has created and preserved for millions of years anyway. I was suprised about the detailed preservation of these when I started preping trilos. Of course there are also a lot of disarticulated specimens, molts and even poorly preserved specimens found, so rarely close to perfectly preserved looking bugs in the end of the prep, but ok, that`s normal. But Moroccan trilos can be just as stunning as trilos from Russia or USA, even better sometimes, in terms of preservation. Unfortunately there are a lot of preps in the market that don`t do them justice and a lot of fuzz about fakes. But the fact is you have to be just as carefull with our Russian friends or our friends in USA as with our Moroccan friends. And it`s not just trilobites that get faked or restored! ;)

In any case, trilobite collecting is a lot of fun, the diversitiy of species, periods and different localities make trilobites one of the most collectable groups of fossils... Figured it might be fun sharing a few other specimens in my personal collection. I don`t have many purchased specimens, since I enjoy to prep em myself* and some material is harder to get hands on, but there are a few... One can easily get lost in the diversity and enormous collecting possibilities and the few here shown examples are not even a start for all 17,000+ known trilobite species, hehe. Fun to look at though. :P

Conocoryphe sluzeri, Cambrian, Czech Republic

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Asaphus kowalewskii, Ordovician, Russia

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Asaphus lepidurus, Ordovician, Russia

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Cyrtometopus clavifrons, Ordovician, Russia

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Eldredgeia venusta, Boliva

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Lochovella deckeri, Oklahoma

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Eldredgeops rana, Ohio

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And few other moroccan trilos, mostly personal preps:

Acastoides sp.

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Crotalocephalus sp.

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Metachantina issoumorensis

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Minicryphaeus minimus

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Drotops armatus

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PS: It`s always good to be carefull when in the market for fossils, ask for prep photo series or who preped the fossil or buy from respectable dealers who know what they are selling and will point out any restorations made. Just to be clear, it`s normal imho and common for russian (and in general) trilobites to have minor restorations (spines or minor shell areas that get damaged or lost when breaking rocks or cracks filled along the break) and I have nothing against restorations, but buyers should be aware of any restoration, otherwise a "0% restoration" specimen can surprise and light up in UV like this russian trilobite Megistaspidella triangularis:

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Extraordinary. What a fantastic thread full of wonderful images and information. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Fossildude19

Wonderful Prep jobs.

Thanks for sharing them with us.

Regards,

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