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Re: fossil publicity (was: Second Thoughts on Sue)
Sam j hogan wrote:
> On Tue, 7 Oct 1997 20:35:06 -0400 Jeff Hecht writes:
> >What I worry about is the bad example up in Montana,
> Right on target. This is the bad side of all the attention Sue garnered
> for vp. However, let us not forget that there is a good side, as well.
> As some of the people most interested in the subject, it is up to us to
> try to educate the public on the issues:
> 1. How the context of fossils is often as important, scientifically, as
> the fossil itself.
> 2. How much damage can be done if care is not taken in documenting and
> actual extraction.
> 3. Exactly what is meant by "care" in the above two contexts.
> 4. How exceptional the sale of Sue actually was, and therefore, museums
> are not just going to pay for any old piece of bone or eggshell someone
> happened to find, EVEN IF such a find is well documented (in the
> scientific sense).
We had a similar minor crisis here in Australia a few years
ago. "Eric" the opalised pliosaur was to be sold overseas, and being
made mostly of precious opal it was valuable regardless of its
scientific importance. Public donations eventually saw Eric being
bought for the Australian Museum in Sydney, with around 30,000 people
donating money. I'm not sure the final bidding price was ever
disclosed, at least not that I'm aware of.
Quite a few opalized remains go missing forever when opal
miners take it upon themselves to excavate them. The type fossil
of Kakuru kujani is an example. Some miners recognise their
scientific importance and resist the temptation to break them up
for their precious opal content, yet often they still excavate the
material themselves, doing untold damage.