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Conceptualising ‘fossiliferous deposit’ against ‘palaeontological deposit’: some semantic (and epistemological) considerations

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This short essay intends to provide insight into the concepts of ‘fossiliferous deposit’ and ‘palaeontological deposit’ by identifying some of their semantic differences. From the moment that fossiliferous deposits are technically accessible to the palaeontologist, they are ‘palaeontological’ ones, but not before. However, not all palaeontological deposits must inevitably be ‘fossiliferous’ deposits in the sense of containing mineralised remains of the anatomical parts of organisms. As a consequence of the existence of fossiliferous deposits, the science of palaeontology exists, with the result that fossiliferous deposits become ‘palaeontological deposits’, together with the non-fossiliferous strata that are able to provide data on the ecological and/or ethological conditions of fossil beings from remains that are not ‘fossils’. From the point of view of philosophy of science, fossiliferous and palaeontological deposits should be considered as two different epistemological (as well as ontological) categories. Consequently, by identifying semantic differences, the concepts of ‘fossiliferous deposit’ and ‘palaeontological deposit’ can be framed better within the philosophical development of the palaeontological sciences. In addition to the central issue addressed in this essay, a brief discussion on the epistemic value of the dichotomy ‘to deposit’ versus ‘to reposit’ applied to palaeontological museology is brought up.
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Keywords: fossils; geological deposits; history of palaeontology; museology; philosophy of palaeontology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Àrea de Prehistòria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Avinguda de Catalunya 35, ES-43002 Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain

Publication date: 17 August 2016

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