In The Middle of Nowhere, China, 250 miles northeast of Beijing, a massive new museum is rising up from the dusty earth. It will house a portion of the findings from Liaoning, a region whose abundance of fossils is helping paleontologists understand dinosaurs’ relationship to birds in more detail — and making China the new paleontology hot spot. Richard Conniff has the full story for Smithsonian.
Nonetheless, there’s genuine fossil wealth being revealed in Liaoning. Many of the slabs have been transferred to Beijing, where preparators are getting them ready for display. One morning in the basement of the IVPP, I watched a young man stare through the dual lenses of a microscope as he worked an air-pressure tool along the length of a wing bone. The needle-pointed tip whined and flecks of stone flew out to the sides, gradually freeing bone from matrix. Nearby a woman used an old credit card to apply a tiny drop of 502 Super Glue to a break in a fossil, then went back to work with a needlelike pick in one hand and an air pump in the other. Eight preparators were working at that moment at different fossils. It was an assembly line, dedicated to opening old tombs and bringing whole empires of unimaginably strange and beautiful creatures almost back to life.