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United States of America v. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton
February 4, 2013 8:20 PM   Subscribe

"One thing I was wondering is if any of these paleontologists you’ve talked to have given their argument of why paleontology is important." Fossils are "just basically rocks," he said. "It's not like antiquities, where it's somebody's heritage and culture and all that."
Bones of Contention: A Florida man's curious trade in Mongolian dinosaurs. [previously]
posted by brundlefly (18 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, gold and copper and rare earths and petroleum are just basically rocks, so people don't really mind if you invade their countries or depose or corrupt their governments and cart it all away. I mean, all those rocks were just dirtying up the place.
posted by XMLicious at 9:03 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


" Fossils are "just basically rocks,"

True dat. And brains are just basically water.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:04 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Procedure required that an arrest warrant be issued against the dinosaur itself, so the action became known as United States of America v. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton.

I know that's not meant to be funny, but it is.
posted by axiom at 9:12 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


More importantly, do mermaids exist?
posted by hellomina at 9:14 PM on February 4, 2013


I know that's not meant to be funny, but it is.

In rem case names are a goldmine of unintentional hilarity.
posted by jedicus at 9:26 PM on February 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


Sometimes all it takes is a sentence for me to really love an article. "Huge industrial fans rearranged the soupy air."
Thanks, New Yorker.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:34 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rubinger, twenty-four, had a Gatsby look: a summer suit with a white, open-collared shirt. I asked him what his clients collect. Rohan answered for him: “Two-hundred-thousand-dollar handbags.” Rubinger added that vintage Hermès bags were the most popular items. “It’s a new, new market,” he said.

Job creators! Superior intellects.
posted by junco at 9:40 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Instead of the Lexus, Amanda told me, they now had two “smaller, dumpier” cars. They had no savings. “It was all in the dinosaurs,” she said.

[...]

Amanda said, “What kills me is that we watch these clips from the news and people are laughing about it. People think it’s funny. It’s not. It’s our life. It’s pretty much over.” She began crying, for the second or third time.

“It’s not over,” Eric told her. “But we’re gonna start over.”

It’s over “as we know it,” Amanda said. “And for what? For bones? No one’s been murdered. We restored a dinosaur. You know?”


Yeah, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the people who invest all their money in illegal international trade and then find themselves broke when their contraband is confiscated.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:37 PM on February 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


From jedicus' link: "United States v. 11 1/4 Dozen Packages of Articles Labeled in Part Mrs. Moffat’s Shoo-Fly Powders for Drunkenness"

*adds to list of potential sock puppet names*
posted by brundlefly at 11:11 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


All together now: 3...2...1...

IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:18 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


From jedicus' link: Quantity of Books v. Kansas. Books won.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:04 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an arsehole.

Entertaining read, thanks for the link. The journalist manages to paint the picture of the family, with the child who says he's a scientist, the wife who thinks tarting up fossils to flog is like being Da Vinci with worthless paint, the tense and self-righteous husband, the many signs of similar transgressions against natural history, perfectly.
posted by iotic at 3:20 AM on February 5, 2013


I guess museums weren't capable of bidding, like everyone else? There's a huge amount of labor went in to getting this dinosaur collected, cleaned and assembled. Whether this guy knew he was getting into an area where his stuff could get confiscated by the government, I don't know.
posted by Goofyy at 3:51 AM on February 5, 2013


Whether this guy knew he was getting into an area where his stuff could get confiscated by the government, I don't know.

There is literally no way this guy didn't know of the extremely dubious legality of handling and selling a Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton from the Gobi. These are not new laws, and it sure as heck isn't a brand new T-Rex. There's also a huge amount of labor that goes into futilely trying to police source areas, to trying to protect legal digs, and to trying to salvage the broken and damaged specimens looters leave behind.

I guess museums weren't capable of bidding, like everyone else?

Museums actually do bid on auction items, but it's not only extremely difficult to pull together financing for something like this, museums in the US are also under a lot of pressure these days to not buy illegal materials.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:04 AM on February 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I should add, there are lots of legal ways to get fossils. I have a lot of fossils. Somewhere, I even have a bit of T-Rex femur, which I legally excavated in the United States as part of a supervised dig in Montana. I think digging up fossils legally is super fun and often an educational experience for the whole family. There are not lots of legal ways to have a fully articulated T. Bataar as a conversation piece.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:07 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whether this guy knew he was getting into an area where his stuff could get confiscated by the government, I don't know.

If you read the article, I don't see how you could come to any other conclusion.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:19 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


A few more in rem cases, most notably, The King vs. Forty-Nine Casks of Brandy
posted by ckape at 10:47 AM on February 5, 2013


I guess museums weren't capable of bidding, like everyone else?

Imagine I took your car, did some detailing on it, replace the plugs, wires, hoses and belts and then sold it to someone with serious credentials, like a museum. Oh, and you're Mongolia.

That's the problem here.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:21 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


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