Contents Drying Desiccation




Casts & Molds


Molecular Fossils



Wax & Asphalt

Coprolites &Gastroliths

Trace fossils


Window to the past

Drying & Desiccation

What is desiccation ?

Desiccation, also known as Mummification, is a very unique and rare form of fossilization. Desiccated/mummified fossils are next in quality to the frozen fossils. Bones and tissues of these desiccated organisms of the desert are preserved, although they often fall apart at the slightest touch. With desiccated fossils, even the skin and hair retain their original color. For example, a fossil "mummy" of Anatosaurus was air-dried before natural burial and when fossilized, there were impressions of the skin in the hardened burial matrix leaving detailed surface pattern of the skin. These extremely fragile fossils are rare enough that any collector finding one is likely to turn it over to a museum. Such fossils are the only accurate evidence available to the scientist trying to restore a bag of bones and give it the proper clothing.

Conditions leading to desiccation

Desiccation results when organic material is found in conditions void of moisture, where dehydration results and material can be preserved for thousands of years. Obviously, one of the favorable environments where desiccation occurs is in the arid regions. Another type of environment where desiccation also occurs is dry caves. Now, about the time that the mammoths were freezing in the northlands, other vertebrates crawled into caves in the southern desert region and died. Dry caves of the Southwest have a climate that preserves anything that crawls into a cave and dies. In this aseptic environment, they become mummified. Not surprisingly, a few of the Ice-Age animals did just that, such as the extinct ground sloth found lying on or near the surface. The cave-dwelling sloth was also represented by their dried dung.


Amber || Casts & Molds || Compactions || Compressions || Coprolites & Gastroliths

Drying & Dessication || Freezing || Impressions || Molecular Fossils || Permineralization

Reference || Trace Fossils || Wax & Asphalt

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