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pilfered Archaeopteryx



>I'd be very interested to hear what folks know about black market dinos 
>and other fossils too.

One fossil I know of that was "pinched" sometime between 1982 and 1991. 
This was the Maxberg specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica, not the best
of specimens, but still one of only a few.  The specimen, discovered in
1956 and first described (by Florian Heller) in 1959, was privately owned
by Eduard Opitsch.  It had been on display in the Maxberg Museum near
Solnhofen, Bavaria, then West Germany, from '59 to '82.  Herr Opitsch took
it off display in 1982, and the specimen disappeared from view.  Requests
for a temporary display of the specimen in the 1984 International
Archaeopteryx Conference in Eichstatt were denied.

In '91, the 91-year old Opitsch died.  His heir, a nephew, was unable to
find the specimen.  According to Dr. Peter Wellnhofer (in the Bulletin of
the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology #155, June 1992) there was no
evidence the specimen was sold by Opitsch, but "reasonable suspicion" (no
further clarification) that the Maxberg Archie was stolen.

I have heard no update on the Maxberg since 1992, and fear it may be lost
to science forever.  Luckily, the specimen has been well illustrated,
photographed, and a handful of casts exist, so not all the information it
could provide has been lost.
                                     
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist in Exile
U.S. Geological Survey
Branch of Paleontology & Stratigraphy
MS 970 National Center
Reston, VA  22092

email:  tholtz@geochange.er.usgs.gov 
Phone:  703-648-5280
FAX:            703-648-5420