Dinosaurs lived a long time ago, but they left traces of their existence all over! Grab your paleontology tools and learn all about fossil hunting on this dino digging adventure!




Start by extracting hidden files from the image using binwalk:

binwalk -e paleontology.jpg

Inside the _paleontology.jpg.extracted folder, you’ll find that two files were successfully extracted, layers_of_dirt.7z and trapped_in.ice.

You can attempt to unzip layers_of_dirt.7z using 7z e layers_of_dirt.7z, but it will prompt you for a password, so move onto inspecting trapped_in.ice for now.


If you run file trapped_in.ice, you won’t get much info back. With some Googling, however, you may be able to determine that this is an ICEOWS archive.

There are two ways of opening this file.

The Hard Way

This way involves using ICEOWS to extract the file. I originally intended for this to be the only way to extract the file, but I determined that requiring that was beyond the scope of this challenge, since the program doesn’t seem to work properly in Windows 10 (it is only officially supported up to Windows XP). To solve it this way, you will need a VM (or just a really old computer) running old version of Windows. Install ICEOWS, then use it to extract trapped_in.ice. A new file, trapped_in will be created.

The Easy Way

The other way of solving this shouldn’t technically be possible, but I added it in to make things a little easier. Using the Extract Files recipe in CyberChef, the image can be extracted from trapped_in.ice (binwalk doesn’t seem to work quite as well in this case). Unchecking “Archives” will make it easier to find the PNG. Note that this file being extracted isn’t actually part of the ICEOWS file, but was rather appended to it to make things a little easier.


If you haven’t already determiend the filetype of trapped_in, file trapped_in will tell you that it is a PNG image.

The file looks like this:

If you inspect the image closely, you’ll notice some very small text:

The text reads: tail -c 97341 paleontology.jpg > la_brea.tar.pit

Running this command will extract the last 97341 bytes from paleontology.jpg and write them to a new file, la_brea.tar.pit.


Again, the file command won’t really provide any valuable information, but using Google or another tool such as TrID, you should be able to determine that this is a PackIt archive. Depending on what archival programs you have installed, your computer may also just recognize this file automatcially.)

There are various programs that can extract pit files, but if you don’t already have one and don’t want to install anything, you should be able to find a website to extract it for you. extract.me is one option that will work.


Inside the pit file is a tar file that can be easily extracted:

tar -xvf la_brea.tar

Inside the extracted folder will be another file, steg.png.


Using CyberChef’s Randomize Color recipe, you can find hidden text in the image.

This reveals the word sediment, which can be used as the password for layers_of_dirt.7z.


The following command will extract layers_of_dirt.7z using the password sediment:

7z e layers_of_dirt.7z -psediment


Inside layers_of_dirt.7z you will find dirt.zip. Inside dirt.zip you will find… more_dirt/, which contains more_dirt.zip. And inside that? even_more_dirt/. You get the idea.

The zip structure recurses pretty far down, so you’ll want to use a script to extract them all.

Your script might look something like this:

# based on scripts found here:
# https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/4367/extracting-nested-zip-files
# https://askubuntu.com/questions/146634/shell-script-to-move-all-files-from-subfolders-to-parent-folder

while [ "`find . -type f -name '*.zip' | wc -l`" > 0 ]
    unzip *.zip
    rm *.zip
    find . -mindepth 2 -type f -print -exec mv {} . \;
    rmdir */


Under all those layers of dirt, you’ll find fossil.jpg!

Using strings fossil.jpg you can find the flag: