Things You Will Need
- Plaster of Paris
- Chicken bones
- Brown acrylic paint or spray paint
- Lacquer or shellac
- Black spray paint
- Air-hardening white clay
Digging for dinosaur bones makes a great kids' party activity. Or, perhaps you want to hang simulated fossils in a wall display.
Most dinosaurs were not the gigantic "terrible lizards" like Tyrannosaurus rex or stegosaurus. A great many prehistoric beasts were actually quite small, the size of a chicken or a turkey.
You can simulate these fossils very easily with readily available materials.
- Find a reference illustration of a fossil skeleton. Books such “Introduction to the Study of Dinosaurs” by Anthony J. Martin are a very good source. The archaeopteryx (a Jurassic-era bird), saltopus (“leaping foot” in Latin) and lesothosaurus (“Lesotho lizard”) are all about chicken-sized.
- Boil chicken bones for an hour or more, or until all the meat has boiled off.
- Separate the bones carefully so that you are left with loose parts.
- Soak the bones for two hours or more in a half-and-half solution of vinegar and water. This will completely remove the meat and prevent rotting. Set aside to dry.
- Mix white plaster with vermiculite, the mineral used in gardening. This will simulate microscopic fossils found among dinosaur bones.
- With the plaster still wet, press the chicken bones into the plaster, arranged like your reference picture.
- Allow to dry, or bake in the oven per plaster manufacturer’s instructions.
- Mix brown paint into some lacquer until the lacquer is still fairly transparent, but is darkened. (You may just spray the surface of a cup of lacquer with brown spray paint.)
- Brush the paint/lacquer mixture lightly over your fossil and allow to dry. It should look like an authentic dug-from-the-earth fossil.
- Find a reference tooth to model. Most dinosaur teeth curved from front to back, allowing the creature to grab its prey. Shark teeth were more triangular, like the shape of a spade head.
- Mold white air-drying clay into the shape of the tooth.
- Scrape a few lines, lengthwise, into the tooth while the clay is still soft. Most fossil teeth have some lines like these.
- Bake the clay to hardness, if the manufacturer’s instructions allow. Let it cool.
- Chip away at the base of the hardened tooth with a small hammer or rock. This will simulate where the tooth broke off, perhaps in battle.
- Spray the tooth lightly, first with some black spray paint, then some brown. Repeat until the tooth is well colored and allow to dry.
- Spray or brush the tooth lightly with lacquer. Fossilized teeth are usually better preserved than bones as they are less porous. The resulting fossil can be quite smooth.