Prehistoric fossils for sale


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From Al Jazeera:

Christie’s auction house in Paris is hosting an unusual auction of paleontological curiosities, including several prehistoric mammals.

A mammoth skeleton, a 150kg meteorite and a bezoar, a kind of giant pearl formed in the stomachs of certain herbivores, are some of the items that will come under the hammer on Monday.

Bidders interested in buying the star specimen – a 15,000-year-old Siberian mammoth dubbed The President – will need at least $199,000.

Skeletons of a 10,000-year-old, 4.1-meter long rhinoceros and a 2.3-meter high cave bear are also on sale.

These skeletons are currently owned by a private collector, but buyers could include museums or artists, Christie’s said.

The auction is not to all paleontologists’ liking.

Pascal Tassy, professor at Paris’ Natural History Museum, decries the selling-off of specimens that could be useful to science.

“It is a pernicious consequence of the Jurassic Park effect,” he said. “We are in a liberal system, in which everything can be sold.

“In the past, private collectors donated to museums, it was a great time of patronage; nowadays we make money off anything,” he said.

The meteorite containing semi-precious stones and showing rare traces of its entry into the atmosphere is valued at between $122,000 and $162,000.

An unhatched dinosaur egg and a wide collection of fossils – some of them 400 million years old – will also be up for auction.

Bezoar

Among the curiosities is the bezoar valued at $34,000. Made of stone or hair covered by a layer of calcium phosphate, bezoars that reach or exceed the size of an egg become tremendously valuable.

In JK Rowling‘s Harry Potter series, bezoars are used as a cure for poison.

In earlier times, according to some historians, princes of Habsburg used them to treat depression.

France’s Cardinal de Richelieu wrote in a 1661 letter to a friend: “I also thank you for your good bezoar that came just at the right moment to pull me through a quite distressing illness.”

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