Digging and Encasing the Specimen
Once the site for digging has been determined it is laid out in a grid pattern of one meter intervals so that a permanent record of the dig can be kept. When greater detail is required a one meter grid is placed on the ground that has one decimeter intervals. Photographs are also taken throughout the digging process and both these and the map are kept as a permanent record with the fossils (Farlow et al, 1997).
Usually daily journals are kept by everyone with the dig and a copy of these journals are placed with the fossils. These journals are used in correlation with the maps and photographs in future studies of the fossils (Farlow et al, 1997).
If the fossils are buried under tonnes of rock bulldozers and jackhammers are used to remove the debris, then small power and hand tools are used. When fine detailed work is required dental picks are used (Farlow, et al).
Once the fossil is exposed chemical hardiners are applied to strengthen it so that it does not get damaged during transportation. There are many chemical hardiners, adhesives and glues that vary in their quality thus a certain amount of knowledge about their application is required (Farlow et al, 1997).
A vertical trench is dug around the fossil and the exposed parts are encased in a protective jacket. The jacket is usually made of burlap that has been soaked in plaster but the burlap is not placed directly onto the fossil. A protective layer of damp tissue is placed between the fossil and the burlap, which is usually either paper towels, toilet paper or newspaper strips. As undercuttung continues the jacket is added on throughout the process, and once a small pedistal is left the entire encased block is overturned and the exposed bit is then jacketed off (Farlow et al, 1997).
Prior to turning the block over it is permanently marked to indicate each fossil that is present inside with a field number, a North arrow for orientation, the site name and number, the date, the collectors name, and other information that is needed (Farlow et al, 1997).