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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2007
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Claim CC351:

The feather imprints of the London Archaeopteryx specimen were forged. Evidence for this is that
These points indicate that the feather impressions were made by someone impressing feathers in a cement-like matrix that was added to the stone. Without the feathers, Archaeopteryx would be identified as the dinosaur Compsognathus, not as a transitional fossil.


Watkins, R. S., F. Hoyle, N. C. Wickramasinghe, J. Watkins, R. Rabilizirov, and L. M. Spetner, 1985a. Archaeopteryx -- a photographic study. British Journal of Photography 132: 264-266.
Watkins, R. S. et al., 1985b. Archaeopteryx -- a further comment. British Journal of Photography 132: 358-359,367.
Watkins, R. S. et al., 1985c. Archaeopteryx -- further evidence. British Journal of Photography 132: 468-470.
Hoyle, Fred, N. C. Wickramasinghe and R. S. Watkins, 1985. Archaeopteryx: Problems arise -- and a motive. British Journal of Photography 132(6516): 693-695,703.
Hoyle, Fred and C. Wickramasinghe, 1986. Archaeopteryx, The Primordial Bird, Christopher Davis, London.
Spetner, L. M., F. Hoyle, N. C. Wickramasinghe and M. Magaritz, 1988. Archaeopteryx -- more evidence for a forgery. British Journal of Photography 135: 14-17.


  1. There are nine other Archaeopteryx fossils discovered at different times and places under well documented conditions. At least six of these also have unequivocal feathers (Charig 1986; Wellnhofer 1993; Mayr et al. 2005). On the Maxburg specimen, the feathers continue under the bones and are overlain with dendrites that sometimes form within bedding planes, precluding the possibility of forgery (Charig 1986). In addition, several other feathered dinosaurs have been discovered.

  2. Tiny fractures, infilled with calcite, extend through both feathers and bones, showing that they have the same source. They also match perfectly from slab to counterslab, proving that the two fit together (Charig 1986). These fractures are invisible to normal vision; a nineteenth-century forger would not even know they existed, much less be able to replicate them.

  3. The "double struck effect" on the counterslab is due to the fossilization method. Feather-degrading bacteria grew under the feathers, causing the sediments beneath to lithify, and so preserving a hardened feather impression. When the feathers decayed away, the sediments above pressed down to create a cast of the surface below (Davis and Briggs 1995). Evidence of this process, including lithified bacteria, is visible under high magnification and could not plausibly be forged.

    Other lack of detailed impressions results from the Archaeopteryx body resting on a flat surface without sinking into it much. The bulk of the fossil projected above the sea floor into the sediments that settled around and over it. When the shale split along the original seafloor surface, the upper part contained the bulk of the fossil, while the lower part showed only the impression which the body made on the sea floor. This pattern is typical of Solnhofen fossils. (Swinburne 1988)

  4. The difference in surface texture in the area of the fossils is due to the impression of the animal body (Charig 1986).

  5. The elevated "blobs" are natural irregularities. There are none which don't have corresponding depressions on the counterslab. The two halves fit together well except where one surface has been destroyed by subsequent preparation. (Charig 1986)

  6. The double-strike impressions are not imprints; they are underlying feathers. A double-strike impression would be harder to forge than a single impression.

  7. The hairline cracks are infilled with calcite both in the original slab and in the area Spetner claims was cement. Plus, the cracks match between the slab and counterslab (Charig et al. 1986). None of this would be possible if the cracks formed after a cement layer were applied.

  8. Differences in appearance are due to different resolutions used in the SEM photography (Nedin 1997).

  9. The unknown materials are clearly not within the limestone matrix (Spetner et al. 1988, Figs. 4b-f). The carbonate grains on top of them are simply dust.

  10. The chemical differences between the fossil and non-fossil areas are likely due to residues of preservatives applied to the fossil areas. (Nedin 1997)


Nedin, Chris, 1997. On Archaeopteryx, astronomers, and forgery.


  1. Charig, Alan J. et al. 1986. Archaeopteryx is not a forgery. Science 232: 622-626.
  2. Davis, Paul G. and Derek E. G. Briggs. 1995. Fossilization of feathers. Geology 23(9): 783-786.
  3. Mayr, Gerald, Burkhard Pohl, and D. Stefan Peters. 2005. A well-preserved Archaeopteryx specimen with theropod features. Science 310: 1483-1486.
  4. Nedin, Chris. 1997. (see above)
  5. Spetner, L. M., F. Hoyle, N. C. Wickramasinghe and M. Magaritz. 1988. Archaeopteryx - more evidence for a forgery. British Journal of Photography 135: 14-17.
  6. Swinburne, N. H. M. 1988. The Solnhofen Limestone and the preservation of Archaeopteryx. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 3(10): 274-277.
  7. Wellnhofer, P. 1993. The seventh specimen of Archaeopteryx from the Solnhofen Limestone. Archaeopteryx 11: 1-47.

Further Reading:

Majka, Christopher, 1992. Archaeopteryx - is this bird a fraud? New Brunswick Naturalist
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created 2001-2-18, modified 2007-4-17