Scyphocrinites elegans (Zenker, 1833) is a gender of crinoids that lived from the late Silurian to early Devonian (430-415 million years ago). Its fossils have been found in Asia, North America, Europe, and Africa.
Instead of being rooted in the ground like most crinoids, this gender differs in that it had a lobolith, that is, a floating sphere, that kept it afloat in the water. Unlike other crinoids, Scyphocrinites elegans hung upside down at the surface.
Toptrilos has had the opportunity to visit one of the quarries where these magnificent fossils are extracted. While they are impressive on their own, knowing the extraction process makes them even more valuable.
In the vicinity of the town of Erfoud (Morocco), prospectors carry out an extremely dangerous extraction process to reach these fossils. The stratum is 5 meters below the surface and prospectors dig holes by hand, without machinery or shoring. The orography of the land makes it impossible to use excavators.
The workers told us that if they are lucky and there is a good stratum at the end of the well, fragments between 5 and 15 cm thick can be recovered and brought to the surface to be recomposed later in the workshop. In the following images, you can see the quarry area and the descent towards the extraction wells.
Once removed, the process of cleaning the crinoids begins. For this, precision tools are used, such as pneumatic hammers, and chemical products: caustic potash and acetic acid. The following series of photographs shows the process, step by step:
Several days of work, expert hands and a lot of expertise are needed to put the pieces back together so that the result is as spectacular as that of the plates that appear below.
Scyphocrinites elegans crinoid plates available in our shop
You can see all our specimens of Scyphocrinites elegans: