Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Samonds, Karen E.

Degree Name

B.S. (Bachelor of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Biological Sciences


The fragile nature of many fossils, particularly large ones, necessitates “jacketing” – removal of the fragile bones in situ, with the surrounding sediment, encased in plaster. Fossil preparation entails the use of specialized lab facilities and appropriate tools to make the specimen ready for scientific study or display in museums by removing the surrounding sediment (also sometimes called matrix; Brown et. al. 2009). There are two major ways to separate fossils from the surrounding rock: manual preparation and acid preparation. Manual preparation, also sometimes called mechanical preparation, is the use of physical force to carefully remove the sediment from around the fossil. Preparation is often done using hand tools such as chisels and hammers, airscribes, abrasives, and glues. Acid preparation, on the other hand, uses chemicals, usually acetic acid buffered with calcium phosphate, to dissolve the surrounding rock and make it more breakable, eventually separating it from the fossil. Sometimes preparators can accomplish their goal by using just one of the two preparation methods. However, in cases where the matrix is very compact, a combination of both methods may yield the best results. This project sought to gain experience in both major types of fossil preparation, compare these different techniques, and determine their effectiveness in preparing fossils of varying sizes and degrees of preservation.


6 pages




Northern Illinois University

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