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The Dinosaur Artist obsession, betrayal, and the quest for Earth's ultimate trophy

by Williams, Paige

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In 2012, a New York auction catalogue boasted an unusual offering: ‘a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton’. In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar - a close cousin to the more-famous T. rex - that had been unearthed in Mongolia. At 2.4 metres high and 7.3 metres long, the specimen was spectacular, and the winning bid was over $1 million.

Eric Prokopi, a 38-year-old Floridian, had brought this extraordinary skeleton to market. A one-time swimmer who’d spent his teenage years diving for shark teeth, Prokopi's singular obsession with fossils fuelled a thriving business, hunting for, preparing, and selling specimens to clients ranging from natural-history museums to avid private collectors like Leonardo DiCaprio.

But had Prokopi gone too far this time? As the T. bataar went to auction, a network of paleontologists alerted the government of Mongolia to the eye-catching lot. An international custody battle ensued, with Prokopi watching as his own world unravelled.

The Dinosaur Artist is a stunning work of narrative journalism about humans' relationship with natural history, and about a seemingly intractable conflict between science and commerce. A story that stretches from Florida's Land O' Lakes to the Gobi Desert, The Dinosaur Artist illuminates the history of fossil collecting - a murky, sometimes risky business, populated by eccentrics and obsessives, where the lines between poacher and hunter, collector and smuggler, and enthusiast and opportunist can easily blur.

image of The Dinosaur Artist obsession, betrayal, and the quest for Earth's ultimate trophy
9781925713954
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Item Type English Books
Publication Date 2018/10
Publisher Scribe Publ
ISBN 9781925713954

DESCRIPTION

In 2012, a New York auction catalogue boasted an unusual offering: ‘a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton’. In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar - a close cousin to the more-famous T. rex - that had been unearthed in Mongolia. At 2.4 metres high and 7.3 metres long, the specimen was spectacular, and the winning bid was over $1 million.

Eric Prokopi, a 38-year-old Floridian, had brought this extraordinary skeleton to market. A one-time swimmer who’d spent his teenage years diving for shark teeth, Prokopi's singular obsession with fossils fuelled a thriving business, hunting for, preparing, and selling specimens to clients ranging from natural-history museums to avid private collectors like Leonardo DiCaprio.

But had Prokopi gone too far this time? As the T. bataar went to auction, a network of paleontologists alerted the government of Mongolia to the eye-catching lot. An international custody battle ensued, with Prokopi watching as his own world unravelled.

The Dinosaur Artist is a stunning work of narrative journalism about humans' relationship with natural history, and about a seemingly intractable conflict between science and commerce. A story that stretches from Florida's Land O' Lakes to the Gobi Desert, The Dinosaur Artist illuminates the history of fossil collecting - a murky, sometimes risky business, populated by eccentrics and obsessives, where the lines between poacher and hunter, collector and smuggler, and enthusiast and opportunist can easily blur.

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