Fake fosils with Hebrew inscriptions, 1745.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Illustration from the second edition of 'Lithographiae Wirceburgensis' ('Wurzburg Lithography') by Joannes Bartholomaeus Beringer (d 1740) published in Frankfurt in 1767. In 1726, Beringer, a profesor at Wurzburg in Germany, was fooled by two colleagues who had fake fosils carved and planted near the town. They hated his pompous arrogance and wanted to humiliate him. Beringer believed the 'fosils' to be genuine, and it was only after the publication of the first edition of this work in 1726 that he discovered the hoax. With modern knowledge, it is easy to dismis Beringer as naive for believing that soft tisue, the Moon, and writing, could be fosilised. The false fosils were known thereafter as Lugensteine, or 'lying stones'.