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How are dinosaur fossils prepared in the laboratory?

Fossil preparators are highly skilled technicians who restore the naturally fractured bones and teeth of fossil to the original state, just as art conservators restore damaged paintings and sculptures. When fossils arrive from the field, they are encased in plaster jackets and the rock—or matrix—which was deposited around the fossils. Fossil preparation involves cutting open the plaster jacket and removing this matrix surrounding the fossil. The matrix may be soft and crumbly, when the sand or mud is poorly cemented together, or it can be extremely hard, when the sediments are well cemented. Created by American Museum of Natural History.

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Video transcript

Preparation of fossil vertebrates, backboned animals, is a very very meticulous process, it's one which we bring these specimens back to the laboratory, often times we don't even know how good they are we get them back here, but then our technicians take and they open the packages, and then depending on how hard the matrix is, basically the dirt or the rocks, surrounding the bones, they take different strategies. I mean it can go all the way from just using a very fine brush or a small dental pick, to using things that are like small sand blasters or small jackhammers to be able to extricate the fossils from the matrix that they're preserved in.