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A couple of responses here, folks. Sorry if I'm beginning to sound aggressive.
>There's a major difference. When a cop confiscates a stolen car, the owner of
>the car has complained to the authorites. No one has said that the teeth had
>been stolen from anyone. NO ONE.
Right. And I never said they should be confiscated, either - you implied
that I said that. But when illegal export CAN be demonstrated,
confiscation is clearly appropriate. This is part of what happened with
Archaeoraptor, for example - that fossil was shipped to the US illegally,
and the paleontologists in Beijing were interested in having it
repatriated. Luckily, the transfer was done without legal intervention.
If I bought some common ancient greek or
>roman coins that appear to have been minted from Asia Minor, and since there
>are really stringent antiquites laws there nowadays, should someone be
>allowed to confiscate them? I don't think so.
I do. The coins may have been "common," but who knows how the site they
were found in was disturbed to get them. The same is true for arrowhead
and potsherd hunters - the arrowheads themselves may not be so special, but
they may have come from a gravesite or village, and the act of digging the
artefacts up may have caused irreparable damage to the site. This is not
an uncommon problem - ask any archaeologist.
We may be facing the same problem with these dinosaur teeth - for all we
know, they were originally found in an intact jaw, which was broken up to
retrieve them. Most paleontologists who've worked in western North
American badlands regions have encountered headless fossil skeletons; the
skull had been removed for the fossil trade. Again, I don't know that this
is the case with these particular dinosaur teeth, but the possibility is
high enough to cause worry.
>In a message dated 11/19/00 7:11:13 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
><< > ....where paleontologists could examine them!
> Eric, I don't think you grasp just how much information is lost without
>good locality data. Without historical and geographic contect that comes
>out of good locality data, relating the fossil to a bigger picture in some
>way is really difficult. >>
>Oh, but I do.
No, you really don't. I really, really don't think you understand just how
difficult it can be to replace locality and provenience data once it's
gone. From your comments, and with all due respect, I have to conclude
that you've never actually worked with fossils.
Plenty of vital information is indeed lost. However, something
>is always better than nothing in this business.
In many cases, all you can say is that a dinosaur tooth from a very unique
and important lineage was found somewhere, and that more of the information
might be out there, but since the locality and provenience data are totally
gone (or, in some cases, even incorrect), the "discovery" is as good as not
having been made.
And since most reputable journals (including JVP and Jour. Paleo.) will not
accept for publication papers describing privately-held material, such
specimens are essentially unpublishable. I, for one, was very disturbed to
see that the University of Kansas - an organization with a long and
prestigious history in paleontology - would publish a paper on a specimen
not yet curated in a recognized institution, and I suspect they won't be
doing it again.
What we need is for private
>collectors to be friendly with public collectors.
See my previous comment on the difference between commercial and amateur
collectors. Lumping them together as "private collectors" is simply
inaccurate. Most museums have the good relations with amateurs you seem to
think does not exist; it's the commercial dealers that are the sticking
And, some museums DO have good relationships with some commercial dealers.
Of course not all dealers are fossil fakers and site raiders; some are very
interested in keeping contextual information with the fossils, and some do
contact museums when potentially important material comes to their
attention. But not all of them do, and the number of those who don't is
large enough to cause very real problems for everyone.
It seems that some PhDs
>would rather see some fossils rot than to have the "wrong" people dig them up.
In fact, having them end up in disreputable hands is no different from
having them rot in the field.
Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605