The dinosaur artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy

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New Yorker staff writer Paige Williams delves into the riveting and sometimes perilous world of the international fossil trade through the true story of one man's devastating attempt to sell a Gobi Desert dinosaur skeleton from Mongolia, a nation that forbids trafficking in natural history.

The first time Eric Prokopi saw T. bataar bones, he was impressed. The enormous skull and teeth betrayed the apex predator's close relation to the storied Tyrannosaurus rex , the most famous animal that ever lived. Prokopi's obsession with fossils had begun decades earlier, when he was a Florida boy scouring for shark teeth and Ice Age remnants, and it had continued as he built a thriving business hunting, preparing, and selling specimens to avid collectors and private museums around the world. To scientists' fury and dismay, there was big money to be made in certain corners of the fossil trade. Prokopi didn't consider himself merely a businessman, though. He also thought of himself as a vital part of paleontology-as one of the lesser-known artistic links in bringing prehistoric creatures back to life-and saw nothing wrong with turning a profit in the process.

Bone hunting was expensive, risky, controversial work, and he increasingly needed bigger "scores." By the time he acquired a largely complete skeleton of T. bataar and restored it in his workshop, he was highly leveraged and drawing quiet scorn from peers who worried that by bringing such a big, beautiful Mongolian dinosaur to market, he would tarnish the entire trade. Presenting the skeleton for sale at a major auction house in New York City, he was relieved to see the bidding start at nearly $1 million-only to fall apart when the president of Mongolia unexpectedly stepped in to question the specimen's origins and demand its return. An international custody battle ensued, shining new light on the black market for dinosaur fossils, the angst of scientists who fear for their field, and the precarious political tensions in post-Communist Mongolia. The Prokopi case, unprecedented in American jurisprudence, continues to reverberate throughout the intersecting worlds of paleontology, museums, art, and geopolitics.

In this gorgeous nonfiction debut, Williams uncovers an untold story that spans continents, cultures, and millennia as she grapples with the questions of who we are, how we got here, and who, ultimately, owns the past.

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Grouping Information

Grouped Work ID592a8dda-7375-4f74-e5ba-6000125c6560
Grouping Titledinosaur artist obsession betrayal and the quest for earths ultimate trophy
Grouping Authorwilliams paige
Grouping Categorybook
Last Grouping Update2019-10-20 06:38:30AM
Last Indexed2019-10-20 06:42:49AM

Solr Details

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auth_author2Archer, Ellen,
authorWilliams, Paige,
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display_descriptionIn 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 most famous animal that ever lived. The fossils now on display in a Manhattan event space had been unearthed in Mongolia, more than 6,000 miles away. At eight-feet high and 24 feet long, the specimen was spectacular, and when the gavel sounded the winning bid was over $1 million. Eric Prokopi, a thirty-eight-year-old Floridian, was the man who had brought this extraordinary skeleton to market. A onetime swimmer who spent his teenage years diving for shark teeth, Prokopi's singular obsession with fossils fueled a thriving business hunting, preparing, and selling specimens, to clients ranging from natural history museums to avid private collectors like actor Leonardo DiCaprio. But there was a problem. This time, facing financial strain, had Prokopi gone too far? As the T. bataar went to auction, a network of paleontologists alerted the government of Mongolia to the eye-catching lot. As an international custody battle ensued, Prokopi watched as his own world unraveled. This is a stunning work of narrative journalism about humans' relationship with natural history and a seemingly intractable conflict between science and commerce. A story that stretches from Florida's Land O' Lakes to the Gobi Desert, it 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, enthusiast and opportunist, can easily blur.
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subject_facetAudiobooks
Fossils -- Collection and preservation
Fossils -- Collection and preservation -- Mongolia
Prokopi, Eric
Sound recording
Tyrannosaurus
title_displayThe dinosaur artist : obsession, betrayal and the quest for Earth's ultimate trophy
title_fullThe Dinosaur Artist Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy
The dinosaur artist : obsession, betrayal and the quest for Earth's ultimate trophy / Paige Williams
The dinosaur artist : obsession, betrayal, and the quest for earth's ultimate trophy [compact disc] / Paige Williams
title_shortThe dinosaur artist
title_subObsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy
topic_facetCollection and preservation
Fossils
History
Nonfiction
Prokopi, Eric
Science
True Crime
Tyrannosaurus