Finally, a dinosaur that can fit in your home

Next month, Sotheby’s will auction off a nearly complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skull excavated from private land in a well-known fossil area called the Hell Creek Formation in Harding County, South Dakota. The skull, nicknamed Maximus, is estimated to fetch between $15 and $20 million, making it on the list of the most valuable fossils to be auctioned in history along with the famous dinosaur skeletons Sue and Stan.

Measuring over six and a half feet tall and over 200 pounds, the dinosaur’s skull is said to be the skull of an adult. Although the rest of the body has perished from erosion at the excavation site, the skull is notable for its remarkable preservation of jaw elements, external bones, and numerous teeth across the top and bottom.

Cassandra Hatton, head of science and popular culture at Sotheby’s, seems to think the prospect of a skull might be more palatable to collectors than the whole body. “When you think about it, more people can fit a skull in their home than people can fit an entire dinosaur,” CBS News earlier in the week. When you put it this way, it really changes one’s view of vintage home decor, right?

Close-up showing preserved teeth and external bones. (Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s).

Except that there are too many people to think that a skull, or any excavation of such rare accomplishment, should be locked away in a private home as a conversation piece between sips of wine on a cream-coloured clip. The Society for Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) has been vocal about its refusal to auction off dinosaur bones to private clients, stating in repeated letters to both Sotheby’s and Christie’s (which orchestrated Stan’s sale), and French auction house Aguttes, that it “scientifically” Important vertebrate fossils are part of our collective natural heritage and deserve to be in the public’s trust.”

And for private collectors who might loan their dinosaur bones to research institutes or museums, that simply wouldn’t cut it either. “Even if made available to scientists, information contained in privately owned samples and future access cannot be guaranteed, and therefore verification of scientific claims (the core of scientific progress) cannot be performed,” explained the senior vice president.

So who buys dinosaur bones anyway? Well, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Nicolas Cage are just three of the many high-profile customers who have purchased dinosaur bones, and they’re living the collective dream of every primary school-aged child in the world. In fact, Nicolas Cage accidentally bought a Baatar dinosaur skull from Mongolia at auction in 2007, but was courteous enough to return it to the country after it was revealed it had been stolen. It was speculated that The Rock was Stan’s buyer in 2020, but he set the record straight very quickly to the media, saying that the T-Rex skull he had purchased was actually just a set of Stan’s skulls.

A replica of Stan on display at The Rock’s home (screenshot by Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via Instagram)

Anyone looking to incorporate Maximus into their home collection can consult The Rock for decorating tips, as a replica of his skull is displayed on a pedestal in his home.

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