Follow up on 2 Million &1AD – The fossilisation machine

Update on a story i published in May, 2 Million &1AD – The fossilisation machine.

In the previous episode, Austin Houldsworth had installed a 3 tonnes and 4m-tall Fossilisation Machine in Tatton Park for the Tatton Park Biennial. The artist was hoping that his rudimentary machine could fast-forward the fossilisation process and petrify a pineapple and pheasant over the Summer only. The ultimate goal of the project is to fossilize a human being one day.


Two weeks ago, Austin opened the prototype fossilisation machine and checked out the outcome of the experiment.

The poor partridge was still in one piece until its head fell off. The reason for its deep orange colour might be the rust from the cast iron pump casing, some form of mineral deposit or simply decay.


The pineapple had been placed in sand and was constantly submerged in the water which unfortunately resulted in rich compost.


However, deposits of calcium on each container indicate that the petrification process had started to take place (albeit in the wrong place.)


According to Austin’s critical analysis, the mineral content in the water was still a little too low for petrification to occur quickly.

A couple of quick questions to Austin:

Are you still planning to fossilize a human being? Or at least did you find the result of this first attempt encouraging enough to keep on perfecting the fossilisation machine?

Austin: Yes, fossilising a human being is still the ultimate aim. Regarding this experiment, the results are promising enough to continue perfecting the machine… but I never saw the machine as the final result – it has helped me to understand the many different aspects which are required for the process to occur. And subsequently I’ve designed a number of improvements for the machine. I believe I’ll be working on this particular project for a very long time.

5machine1_a051c28d70_z.jpgAre you going to keep the machine in your garage or is it the commissioning festival that gets to find a space for it?

Austin: Currently the machine is sitting (dismantled) in the workshop, so for the time being my large scale experiment is on hold… I’ll still be perfecting and recreating the process, but will be looking for the next available space for the public to engage with it for the second instalment.

All images courtesy Austin Houldsworth.