And so this particular piece of Burmese amber offers a rare glimpse of a long-lost world teeming with life forms. It was, in fact, mined in Hukawng Valley in Kachin State. To complicate matters, the region has long been hard to reach for foreigners owing to a conflict between local separatists and the Burmese government.
Fortunately, however, Lida Xing, a paleontologist at the China University of Geosciences, was able to get into the area using a fake ID and some camouflage. “I disguised myself as a Burmese man with a face painted with Thanaka,” he told the online magazine Motherboard. Thanaka is a cosmetic mixture widely worn in Myanmar.
Once inside Kachin, Xing found a piece of amber at a market in the city of Myitkyina. Apparently intended for a jeweler’s workshop, it had been cut and polished. This suggested that the miner had missed its true value. And on top of that, the market vendor had wrongly identified the fossil inside it as plant remains.