Odontopleuridae family; Selenopeltis sp. mortality plate of impressive size. The fossil plate containing many extinct arthropod individuals, including Dalmanitina sp. trilobites of exceptional quality, the authentic fossil trilobites conserved as found within the fossil limestone bed. A chaotic prehistoric scene unfolding a 478 million-year-old story.
This limestone plate once formed part of an ancient Ordovician seabed 478 to 443 million years ago, discovered in a region which is the Western Saharan desert of today, in the region of Souss Massa, Tiznit Provence, South Western Morocco lying in the North West of the African continent.
The trilobites contained in the sedimentary layers have been arranged randomly by nature. The once extinct fast-swimming invertebrates now trapped in the bottom silt metamorphised to stone. This type of seabed plate is referred to as a mass mortality plate, the explanation of the palaeontological and geological profession, after analysis has concluded the death of these invertebrate animals was probably due to an underwater tsunami, or similar cataclysm. The trilobites on mass, quickly covered over and asphyxiated, thence petrifying and ultimately the rare event of fossilising the trilobites over millions of years.
There are but a handful of museums around the world, outside of Morocco holding such comprehensive trilobite plates of such preservation and conservation, a unique opportunity has arisen from the loins of the earth, a moment in time has been encapsulated in solid rock forever. This exceedingly good honest fossil plate, all too often plates are pieced together as one and coloured to hide the fixing together of unassociated parts. It is a normal occurrence that large plates are extracted in smaller parts and rebuilt in the technical Laboratory.
The rudimentary tools and limited resources of the north African fossickers do not allow major excavations with powerful power tools or large machines, the rugged far-reaching areas of the desert do not often allow for any modern ease or comfort, even to transport large vehicles to remote mountain locations can be problematic. Often the altitude of the fossil bed creates another difficult facet for extraction. The upshot is the plates are re-fixed back together post extraction. Re-fixing is therefore at present a common and unavoidable circumstance of fossicking in N.Africa and many other regions. It is one that the fossil community look upon with some indifference, if honest and competently achieved, aesthetically appealing is a big consideration.
When this is not the case, or where many Moroccan fossil preparators and merchants fall down, is the reconstitution of fossil plates, assembling unassociated plates from the same fossil region creating a fossil pizza! A well-used term of the past to pass off plates which were completely Frankensteinian, another well-used phrase in the fossil world. Thankfully one heard less in recent years. For the purchaser, it is worth keeping these points in mind when pursuing fossils from around the globe, no one country or region has a monopoly of the Frankenstein fossil or fossil plate.