The skull, which has been named Maximus, is one of the most complete of its kind ever found, the auction house said in a press release Tuesday, adding that it represents a “rare and important paleontological discovery.”
The skull, named Maximus, is one of the most complete of its kind ever found, according to Sotheby’s. Credit: Sotheby’s
Describing the fossil as “extremely rare,” the auction house’s global head of science and popular culture, Cassandra Hatton, said in a statement that the sale was an “unprecedented moment.”
Maximus was discovered on private land in the extensively studied Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota. The skull belonged to an adult dinosaur, and all its “tooth-bearing jaw elements” have been preserved along with most of its external bones. The rest of the skeleton was largely destroyed by erosion, as the excavation site had been severely weathered over time, the auction house said.
The preserved skull was found at Hell Creek Formation in Sorth Dakota, though the rest of its skeleton had largely eroded away. Credit: Sotheby’s
“This T. rex fossil is an extraordinary discovery,” said Henry Galiano, a Sotheby’s natural history consultant, in a press statement. “Unearthed in one of the most concentrated areas for T. rex remains, the skull retained much of its original shape and surface characteristics with even the smallest and most delicate bones intact, with an extremely high degree of scientific integrity.
“Without the work of experienced field palaeontologists who carefully collected and preserved this skull, it may have eroded away and been lost to science forever,” he added.
Fossil auction controversy
In 1997, a T. rex nicknamed Sue became the first dinosaur ever to sell auction, said Sotheby’s. Credit: Martin Baumgaertner/Field Museum
The 1997 sale was met with controversy, however, with some experts concerned that specimens in private collections would become unavailable for scientific study. Paleontologists have also argued that the growth of the collectors’ market makes it harder for them to carry out excavation work on private land.
“In my own opinion, there are only cons,” P. David Polly, a professor and chair of the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, told CNN at the time of the Gorgosaurus sale. “While certainly there is no law in the US that supports this for fossils that come off private land, it’s easy for me as a scientist to argue that that fossil is important to all of us, and really ought to be going into a public repository where it can be studied — where the public at large can learn from it and enjoy it.”