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Finding authentic fossils on a Morocco archaeology tour

Morocco is a country located in North Africa. The geology of Morocco is varied, with ancient rocks dating back over three billion years, and more recent rocks from the Quaternary period. There are a variety of landscapes in Morocco, from the High Atlas mountains to the Sahara desert. The geology of Morocco has been shaped by a variety of geological processes, including tectonic activity, erosion, and deposition.


Where are fossils in Morocco located?


The Atlas Mountains to the west and the Sahara Desert to the east dominate one of the world's most geographically diversified nations, Morocco. Large expanses of exposed rock result from the arid environment, making it simple to comprehend the geology. Interested nature lovers can look forward to fascinating natural features, including folded rocks, enormous sand dunes, and abundant fossil beds from pre-Cambrian to recent geological periods. Eastern Morocco is home to fossilized trilobites, ammonites, and other ancient creatures like dinosaurs, coral, and shark teeth. Through excavations in Morocco, paleontologists have greatly enhanced the geological record




The Sahara....Sea?


Millions of years ago the Sahara Desert would have been a shallow sea. Prehistoric sea animals called Ammonites, Orthoceras and Trilobites flourished in this water and as they died gathered on the seafloor.


They were buried in the sediment, where their bodies over millennia were transformed into stone. Ammonites can be identified by their spiral bodies, similar to contemporary snails (mollusks). Orthoceras have a thin body and "toothlike" beak that resemble current squids. Trilobites have a strong exoskeleton that is separated into three, well-fossilizable parts. These floor-living organisms are the progenitors of modern insects, spiders, centipedes, lobsters, and crabs.


How did the fossil trade in Morocco come to be?


French geologist Louis Gentil's discovery of trilobite fossils close to Casablanca in 1916 sparked early 20th-century interest in Moroccan fossils. Local people took advantage of Morocco's abundant fossil resources throughout the century by selling discovered specimens to collectors and tourists. The sale of fossils supplemented the pay of nearby miners and gave Moroccans living in underprivileged areas a source of money.


Although the fossil market initially expanded slowly, it quickly grew in the late 1980s and early 1990s as fossil collection became increasingly popular, particularly among young people. The Moroccan fossil trade developed into a thriving business during the 2000s. The extraction and export of minerals or fossils provided a living for more than 50,000 Moroccans, and the fossil sector generates more than $40 million annually. According to a 2018 Le Monde investigation, some Moroccan exporters of fossils make up to $100,000 annually.


Where is the best place to find fossils in Morocco?


The village of Erfoud, located in the center of the Ziz Oasis and close to the renowned Erg Chebbi Desert, is the best location in Morocco to find fossils.


You can observe firsthand how fossils are discovered and extracted by visiting the Museum of Fossils and Minerals or one of the local fossil manufacturers. Many Berber families from Erfoud and Midelt have been actively mining and restoring fossils for many centuries.


How are Moroccan fossils excavated?


With shovels, picks, and chisels, hand-dug trenches are mined, marble rocks are removed, and rock pieces from the fossils are removed by hand micro-blasting. Other big slabs of marble may be carved and polished to produce tables, fountains, soap dishes, bowls, pendants, and various decorative things.


Some fossils are polished for display purposes. You can buy these things in Erfoud, as well as in the souks in Marrakech and Fes. Larger specimens and big items made for display can be shipped directly to your home.



A wealth of history at the Kem Kem Beds rock formation


A well-known archaeological site in southern Morocco is the Kem Kem Beds formation, located between Morocco and Algeria. In 1991, a shepherd in the remote town of Hassi Begaa discovered fish bones. Numerous dinosaur bones and even footprints were found due to the increasing interest in the region that followed. The discovery of Spinosaurus, the first semiaquatic dinosaur, is among the most intriguing. Thought to be larger than a T-rex, it is thought to be the biggest predatory dinosaur on Earth. Egypt has also yielded similar artifacts.



Dinosaur fossils in Morocco


In contrast to many other nations, Morocco has a comparatively high concentration of dinosaur fossils, particularly in the Cretaceous-era Kem Kem deposits. Given that the majority of the Cretaceous fossil sites were previously turbulent river beds, fossils in good preservation, such as more complete specimens, are incredibly rare. Most fossils are isolated pieces of bone or teeth.


Similar to modern crocodiles, dinosaurs lost and replaced teeth frequently throughout their lifespan, which contributed to the profusion of teeth.


Thousands of dinosaur fossils are discovered in Morocco annually and exported there. Theropod dinosaur Spinosaurus teeth are particularly prevalent among Moroccan dinosaur teeth. This is probably because Spinosaurus spent much of its time in rivers rather than on riverbanks. In one fossil site analyzed by paleontologists in 2014, Spinosaurus teeth accounted for about half of all the fossil teeth collected and about a sixth of the total recovered fossils. The fossilized Spinosaurus teeth at one site exceed the teeth of other dinosaurs by a ratio of around 150 to 1. Other dinosaur teeth are far more scarce.



Trilobite fossils in Morocco


Buyer beware: some vendors sell fake fossils in Morocco


Diamond Transfers and Tours can guide you to reputable dealers in Morocco who exclusively trade in authentic fossils, minerals and geological samples. Our clientele includes art and history connoisseurs, who seek the world's finest rare specimens. We have connections to the most trusted antiquities experts in Morocco.


Compared to collecting high-end objects such as impressionist paintings, the fossil industry is a relatively young field, with an as of yet not exhausted supply. Trilobite fossil from Morocco called Paradoxides Most trilobite specimens from Morocco that are sold internationally have undergone some degree of restoration because they are rarely discovered in complete form. Due to rock cracking by excavators, many trilobite fossils are fractured, which are then repaired with glue before being sold.


Trilobites may occasionally be created entirely of plaster or other materials, such as regional muds or automotive putty. Making false fossils is permitted in Morocco. Since imitation trilobites are frequently well-made and molded using molds created from authentic fossil specimens, it can be challenging to distinguish them from genuine fossils. Although passing counterfeits off as real is against the law, the act of doing so is allowed, which leaves a general area of law where the activity is acceptable.


Craftsmen may assemble fragments of broken trilobites to produce "chimera" specimens that were never alive. In certain instances, fakers may begin with genuine specimens but later add traits to make them seem more unique, like an enlarged nose or spikes.


Sometimes fossil specimens are made up of a mixture of actual and false parts, such as fossils whose heads and tails are made of the real thing but whose bodies are made of plastic. Given that many original specimens of the genus Paradoxides are quite fragile, it has been noted that these trilobites are especially prone to having work done on them. Moroccan trilobite specimens frequently contain between 20 and 25 percent "restored" material and the remainder is genuine fossilized material.


It is common to combine real or mostly real specimens into composites, with fossils from various localities being "mismatched" and placed tightly next to one another on a single stone plate. Collectors call these composites "trilobite pizzas."


Using a UV flashlight, look for air bubbles in a fossil trilobite to establish its validity. The authenticity of fossil trilobite specimens should generally not be a concern for fossil collectors, according to the American Museum of Natural History, as most fakes can be detected with a keen eye and understanding of trilobite morphology.


More stunning and fascinating authentic trilobite fossils are being discovered in Morocco than anywhere else on Planet Earth. It is possible to find and purchase authentic fossils here when you know where to look.

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