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Edward Cope's Skull
Boulder Photographer Says Skull Accompanied Him During 'Hunting Dinosaur'
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Nearly 100 years after his death, eminent American
paleontologist, Edward Drinker Cope, is on a sabbatical, Colorado dinosaur
expert Robert Bakker says tongue-in-cheek as he points to a well-preserved human
skull sitting on a table in his Boulder home.
Cope, who died in 1897, is seemingly amused by Bakker, returning a bony
half-grin created by a missing lower jaw.
But the owners of Cope's skull aren't as tickled.
The Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania
recently accused Louis Psihoyos, a Boulder photographer and writer and Bakker's
friend, of masterminding a gruesome joke.
Psihoyos has played host to the famous paleontologist's skull for the last three
years while researching his book "Hunting Dinosaurs."
"We were hoping to bring notice and attention to his work posthumously," said
Psihoyos of Cope. "We were hoping to bring people into dinosauria in a unique
and interesting way."
He said museum officials at the University of Pennsylvania aren't even sure the
skull is Cope's. Psihoyos said they have carelessly handled the skull in the
past. "They are awful anxious to get it back," Psihoyos said, considering they
don't even believe its the noted scientist's skull.
Cope, an independent paleontologist, and a colleague who became a bitter rival,
clashed over coveted ancient bones, sparking what has become known as "The Bone
Wars" in archaeological circles.
The Morrison Formation, which runs along the Front Range through Colorado and
Wyoming, proved to be the mother lode. Field workers for Cope and his rival,
O.C. Marsh from Yale University, were in a running battle to find the best and
the most dinosaur bones possible.
Sometimes bones were stolen or destroyed when it appeared the competition was
closing in on a good find.
Cope is once again involved in a bone war.
Perhaps looking for the ultimate victory over his arch-rival, Cope instructed
his assistants to prepare his skeletal remains to be preserved for science. But
Cope, who was small and apparently suffering from syphilis, was deemed
unsuitable as a "type specimen" for homo sapiens.
In a scientific paper to be published this month, Bakker, a friend of Psihoyos,
has proposed Cope get his wish.
But there's a hitch in Bakker's plans to immortalize Cope's bones. University of
Pennsylvania officials now deny the skull is Cope's. They say his skull was lost
in the 1970s after being loaned to someone else.
Bakker, who is loosely affiliated with the University of Colorado, swears the
skull is Cope's. He compared hairline cracks and features on the bony
protrusions around the nose to a drawing of the skull done in 1904.
The similarities, Bakker said, "would hold up in court."
His analysis fits with the positive identification made by San Francisco's chief
coroner, Psihoyos said. A chapter of his book relates "Ed's" travels through
dinosaur country and the skull is photographed with a number of famous
"It's a fitting tribute for Cope," Bakker said. "Nearly a century after his
death, he is visiting the most famous fossil sites in North America and he is
meeting his intellectual grandchildren.
"This is a well-deserved sabbatical. He was not granted leave with pay while he
was alive. I certainly hope 100 years after I'm dead, someone will take me on a
vacation," he said.
The skull as accompanied Psihoyos in every restaurant and motel on his trip,
"mainly because we were scared that if something happened, we'd be responsible.
"I've offered to fly him back," Psihoyos said. "But they said to FedEx him."