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 ID 592a8dda-7375-4f74-e5ba-6000125c6560
Grouping Title dinosaur artist obsession betrayal and the quest for earths ultimate trophy
Grouping Author williams paige
Grouping Category book
Last Grouping Update 2019-02-14 01:10:03AM
Last Indexed 2019-02-15 07:50:45AM

Solr Details

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auth_author2 Archer, Ellen (Narrator),
author Williams, Paige,
author2-role Archer, Ellen(Narrator),narrator.
author_display Williams, Paige
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display_description "In 2012, a New York auction catalogue made an unusual offering: 'a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton.' In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar, a close cousin to T. rex, the most famous animal that ever lived. The fossils now on display in Manhattan had been unearthed in Mongolia, some 6,000 miles away. At 8 feet high and 24 feet long, the specimen was spectacular, and the final gavel signaled a winning bid of well 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 searching for shark teeth, Prokopi's singular obsession with fossils generated 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, fueled by geopolitics, Prokopi watched as his own world unraveled. In the tradition of The Orchid Thief, The Dinosaur Artist 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, The Dinosaur Artist illuminates the history of fossil collecting--a wildly popular, yet sometimes murky, risky business, populated by eccentrics and obsessives, where the lines between poacher and hunter, collector and smuggler, enthusiast and opportunist, can easily blur. In her first book, ... writer Paige Williams has given readers an irresistible story that spans continents, cultures, and millennia as she examines the question of who, ultimately, owns the past."--Dust jacket.
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subject_facet Audiobooks, Fossils -- Collection and preservation, Fossils -- Collection and preservation -- Mongolia, Fossils -- Collection and preservation -- Moral and ethical aspects, Fossils -- Collectors and collecting -- Florida, HISTORY / Expeditions & Discoveries, Mongolia, Nonfiction, Prokopi, Eric, -- 1974-, SCIENCE / Paleontology, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology, Sound recordings, TRUE CRIME / Con Artists, Hoaxes & Deceptions, TRUE CRIME / Hoaxes & Deceptions, Tyrannosaurus, Tyrannosaurus -- Mongolia, Tyrannosaurus bataar
title_display The dinosaur artist : obsession, betrayal, and the quest for Earth's ultimate trophy
title_full 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 / Paige Williams
title_short The dinosaur artist :
title_sub obsession, betrayal, and the quest for earth's ultimate trophy
topic_facet Collection and preservation, Collectors and collecting, Fossils, HISTORY / Expeditions & Discoveries, Moral and ethical aspects, Prokopi, Eric, SCIENCE / Paleontology, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology, TRUE CRIME / Con Artists, Hoaxes & Deceptions, TRUE CRIME / Hoaxes & Deceptions, Tyrannosaurus, Tyrannosaurus bataar