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» Another Piltdown Man Hoax? Ancient Fossil Found to Have Been Doctored

Scientists in 1931 thought they had discovered in the Italian Alps a rare 280-million-year-old fossil of a lizard, named Tridentinosaurus antiquus. The dark coloration of the specimen they assumed was preserved skin. But according to a new study published Feb. 15 in Palaeontology, the fossil is mostly human-made.

Researchers discovered the real nature of the fossil by means of modern techniques such as 3D modeling, ultraviolet (UV) photography, high-powered microscopes and chemical analysis. Valentina Rossi, the study’s lead author, said she was hoping to learn how the animal was fossilized. And discovering that the skin was fake was “totally unexpected.”

"We analyzed many samples from various parts of the body of the animal, so we are certain that, unfortunately, there is no trace of original soft tissue preserved," she said.

However, apparently not all of the fossil is fake. Hind-limb bones and tiny bone scales in the fossil are real. The additional carving and paint used are indicative of poor fossil preparation. The scientists thus feel this was not a deliberate forgery like the Piltdown Man.

Most of the fossils found in the Alps from the same assumed time period are animal tracks rather than bones. Therefore, the discovery of a lizard fossil was considered a significant discovery. Some time ago, a paleontologist had studied the fossil and mistakenly concluded the fossil’s dark outline was evidence of exceptional tissue preservation.

"He couldn't analyze this fossil with the techniques that we have today, so his description was the best we [scientists] could make at the time," Rossi said.

Rossi added that she and her colleagues were saddened to find out the true nature of the fossil. She assumes that whoever prepared the fossil was not intending to create a fake but just trying to replicate what the entire animal might have looked like.

The researchers want to know the true nature of Tridentinosaurus antiquus. "Our money is still on a reptile-looking creature," Rossi said.

Comments: Okay. So maybe this fossil was not a deliberate hoax like the Piltdown Man. The Piltdown Man’s remains were widely publicized for many years. There’s no indication anyone was trying to gain notoriety by doctoring this fossil.

Yet, this story demonstrates once again the problems paleontologists face. No scientists were around to examine this “million-year-old” fossil or any fossil said to be that ancient. So, today’s researchers must rely to a great extent on assumptions and guesses as they try to figure out the nature of ancient bones and prints.

Scientific hoaxes obviously are not good. But how much better are the assumptions of paleontologists, geologists, and other scientists involved in historical science? How often do they overstate the value of their research and discoveries?

Creationist scientists obviously are also limited in studying old fossils, but they do have an advantage. They can rely on the testimony of the One who was there when fossils were living creatures and when they became fossilized. Fossils are only thousands, not millions, of years old. Except for creatures which have gone extinct like dinosaurs, fossils also closely resemble living plants and animals. Evolution is not needed to explain the natural world as we witness it today.

But while studying the past may be of great interest to scientists and some non-scientists alike, looking into the future should be of even much greater interest to us believers. We look for the return of our Savior who is coming back to take all believers with him to heaven.

In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that you may also be where I am” [John 14:2-3].

By Warren Krug

Reference: Patrick Pester, “Only part of rare 280 million-year-old fossil is real — the rest is mostly paint,” Live Science [February 16, 2024]. (Tridentinosaurus antiquus photo, from thenews.com.pk.)




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Can dogs taste the same flavors as humans?

No. Although they can taste many of the same flavors, they have fewer taste buds. This results in less intense flavors.

Source: Stephanie McDorman, ”The Gift of Tongues,” Answers [January-March, 2023], page 55.


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About Me--Warren Krug
Decades ago I attended a so-called Lutheran university where I could have lost my faith. The science professors promoted the theory of evolution and made fun of anybody who believed in the account of creation as presented in the book of Genesis. Thanks be to God, some creationist literature and the Bible soon helped get me back on the right track. Ever since then I have taken an active interest in the creation/evolution controversy.

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