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Profile: Tete-a-tete with fossils
From:Xinhua  |  2020-06-10 00:29

GUIYANG, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Restoring fossils in deep mountains requires a variety of techniques except for speaking skills -- the more silent you are, the louder you could hear a stone talk.

In the eyes of Li Gang, a fossil restorer in a national geological park in southwest China's Guizhou Province, an easily-ignored piece of rock might be able to convey a story dating back 220 million years.

The area was beneath the sea between 410 million and 350 million years ago. In 2006, fossils of marine reptiles and sea lilies with a history of 220 to 230 million years were unearthed in Guanling County.

To better protect and preserve the fossils, the local government established the Guanling Fossil National Geopark, which collects and exhibits fossils of ancient marine creatures.

In his office, Li carefully placed a plate-sized fossil of sea lily in a transparent container and used sophisticated equipment to remove dust from the fossil.

"The sea lily is an animal -- a kind of echinoderm to be precise. But it looks like a plant, which is why it has a plant's name," said Li.

As the surface dust cleared out, the fossil began to show more exquisite stripes and a clearer shape of sea lily bones.

"The force used in fossil restoration really matters. It should help remove impurities, and also avoid damage," said Li.

Li's life as a fossil restorer began 20 years ago after a chance encounter with a sea lily fossil.

"I was instantly enchanted by its exquisite look as if it was telling me a mysterious past," he said.

But at that time, due to lack of restoration knowledge and skills, fossil raiders often destroyed the fossils they stole.

Given this, Li began advocating scientific restoration among local villagers.

"Each and every piece of fossil is unique, which allows for no carelessness," he said. "The restoration of sea lily fossils requires extra care as their skins are as tender as those of humans."

Initially, it took Li more than 10 days to restore a palm-sized sea lily fossil. However, as his techniques gradually improved, it now takes him just about an hour.

Li also shares his findings with volunteers and apprentices without reservation. In 2018, he was nominated as an "outstanding contributor" by China Fossil Preservation Foundation for his devotion to fossil preservation and protection.

The geopark has also held numerous activities to encourage visitors to try fossil restoration with experts, which is also an opportunity for them to learn about the history of sea lilies.

In 2009, the geopark was designated as a teaching base for popularizing geological knowledge. Enditem