“Frankenstein” Mongolian Dinosaur, Tarbosaurus bataar
“Political Trophy” or anti-regulation “Finders Keepers”?
Paleontologists, attorneys and buffs around the world are looking forward to this December’s upcoming court session regarding the apparently Mongolian “Frankenstein” Tarbosaurus bataar composite skeleton, which went up for auction on May 20 earlier this year. Nearly halted completely, the auction did go on, and the skeleton is on pending sale to an anonymous individual.
In a real-life scenario that smacks of the most entertaining films of foreign intrigue and drama, T. bataar is at the center of controversy over its skeleton’s true origin of discovery. This case has gone as far as the courts, due to its involvement in international ownership disputes. Hand it to the professionals once again, who swooped in on May 20 and stopped the final transfer of T. bataar earlier this year. Although unsuccessful in their own bid to stop the actual sale, the actions have brought about a stall in progress regarding actual delivery of the T. bataar composite skeleton.
Mongolian Dinosaur Remains- Find Them, Complete Them, and Sell Them
Not necessarily. Professional paleontologists- North American and Mongolian- seem to maintain that the bones were found in Mongolia, where there exists a regulation regarding objects of historical significance and automatic governmental ownership of any objects recovered in its Mongolian territory.
The Mongolian dinosaur skeleton in question is made of real bits of prehistoric specimen, plus composite material (“chunks of rocks”) formed and placed to finish the prehistoric composition. Eric Propoki, the Florida fossil dealer who expected to cash in big on T. bataar – “…just a guy in Gainesville…” he proclaims— seems to minimize his actual interest in the plot.
Propoki claims, “I’m just a guy in Gainesville …trying to support my family, not some international bone smuggler like I have been portrayed by some in the media…” yet, Mongolian authorities claim Propoki to have frequented Mongolia several times in the past. Clearly not just a guy in Gainesville- but a cosmopolitan sort- with the ability to retain powerful legal representation when for a defense, rather than back down. It was his fellow paleo-enthusiast British contact who apparently reconstructed a portion of the skeleton before shipping the remains in a parcel to Propoki in America.
Auctioneers- All about the seller’s paperwork for the Mongolian Dinosaur
Also at issue is whether or not actual specimens from various locations were comingled into the reconstruction, which also could indicate another effort to confuse the provenance of the entire structure. Although teeth and other remnants have been found in other territories, such as Kazakhstan and China, these samples lack conclusive identification as T. bataar, and so it is difficult to use any argument of scattered remains.
If parts of the Mongolian dinosaur skeleton are found to have been discovered in territories other than Mongolia, then the sale would continue. Also, depending on governmental treaty policies and procedures, even if the skeleton proves to have originated entirely in Mongolia, possession and storage in England over the last 10 years could also aid the defense. So far, there is no reported evidence that the fossils definitely originated in Mongolia 10 years ago. It could have been more recently.
The Auction goes on
The auctioneer, Heritage Auctions, went confidently forward with the auction on May 20 in the belief that any ownership satisfaction was met, having apparently received any necessary documentations and determinations upon acquisition from the fossil dealer, Propoki.
So, could Propoki have dug up the fossils in Mongolia and transported them to an English fossil dealer before having them shipped to the United States and attempting to sell , or is this Mongolian dinosaur merely the “political trophy” that Propoki says it is?