Cryptozoologists have been on the hunt for fossil evidence of fey, more commonly known as “fairies,” for nearly a century. The first photographic evidence of fey was produced in Cottingley, England in 1917 by the young naturalists, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously sponsored further research into the fey of the Cottingley area, but was unable to deliver a live specimen.
Undaunted by the lack of physical remains, cryptozoologists and amateur enthusiasts have scoured the globe for evidence to validate the legends and turn the map of evolutionary history upside-down.
Late in the last century, a complete skeleton was uncovered just outside Dorset Vermont. The Dorset skeleton forced fey experts to reconsider their tactics. Most search efforts focused on the English countryside in which the majority of sightings had taken place. The skeleton in the Vermont hills provided evidence that fairies were, in fact, endemic to North America, and likely to be found in mountainous forests.
Skeptics argued that the bones were somewhat bird-like and could have been assembled from those of a known species, quail, for example. They argued that the creature had no clear evolutionary predecessor and without either evidence in the fossil record, or a complete specimen, the biological community would not take the claim seriously.
Their skeptical cynicism was undone last week, however, as paleontologists uncovered a nearly complete fairy fossil preserved in the Vermont slate. The creature would have stood nearly eight inches in height and has two pairs of simple dragon-fly like wings. Evolutionary biologists confirm that the Dorset skeleton represents a more developed version of the same basic creature. The fossil has been dated to 2.6 million years ago. One expert has been reported to have said:
“This is irrefutable evidence of a branch of vertebrate hitherto unknown, or at least unaccepted by science. With creatures such as these fluttering around so close to civilization, it makes one wonder what might be in the less explored corners of our globe.”
The fossilized species has been dubbed Fey Doylens in honor of the pioneering work done in the field by Sir A.C. Doyle.
So naturally that’s all rubbish and poppycock. This is actually a post about how I make fake fossils for fun and proffit. Jamie from Skepchick took a really nice picture of my fairy, though, and I couldn’t help but make up a story about it. If you want to see how I made the skeleton, go here.
The first step in faking a fossil like this is to get some rocks. It might seem backwards to get the rocks first and design second, but the design needs to fit the surface, and you have limited control of the rock. I went to a local landscaping supply place and bought three dollars worth of Vermont slate. I just grabbed chunks that had broken, in a natural looking way, off of the big slabs that they actually want to sell. I picked Vermont slate because it’s a very fine-grain rock with pretty flat strata and a nice color. That makes it easier to put fine detail into and have it look plausible.
A note here, there is no realistic way that a fairy like this would be preserved like this in slate. First, slate is metamorphic which means it’s gone through a period of intense heat and pressure which destroys most fossils and damages and warps the remaining ones. Very few pristine fossils are found in metamorphic rock. Second, the Vermont Slate was formed around 475 million years ago. That’s about a hundred million years before flying insects.
Once I had a good slab, I designed a fairy to go on it. I modeled it on a human skeleton in the iconic archaeopterix pose.
I used velum to trace it and carbon paper to transfer it onto the slate. Then I carved away the excess rock with a variety of diamond burrs and my rotary tool.
Finally, I used some wood varnish to make the fossil stand out more from the stone and it was done, a delightful, decorative, fraudulent fossil, ready to fool anyone that doesn’t look too hard or think too much.