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Provenance of Mongolia Tarbosaurus being auctioned

Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, of Mongolia, has asked me to post the following open 
letter from Mark Norell concerning the provenance of the Tarbosaurus skeleton 
being auctioned this weekend.  Mark has approved its posting.

The Mongolian government is quite concerned about the specimen and is actively looking into whether or not it was illegally exported from Mongolia.


17 May 2012

Dear Sirs-

It is with great concern that I see Mongolian dinosaur materials listed in the upcoming (May 20) Heritage Auctions Natural History catalogue. For the last 22 years I have excavated specimens Mongolia in conjunction with the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. I have been an author on over 75 scientific papers describing these important specimens. Unfortunately, in my years in the desert I have witnessed ever increasing illegal looting of dinosaur sites, including some of my own excavations. These extremely
important fossils are now appearing on the international market.

In the current catalogue Lot 49317 (a skull of Saichania) and Lot 49315 (a
mounted Tarbosaurus skeleton) clearly were excavated in Mongolia as this is the only locality in the world where these dinosaurs are known. The copy listed in the catalogue, while not mentioning Mongolia specifically (the locality is listed as Central Asia) repeatedly makes reference to the Gobi Desert and to the fact that other specimens of dinosaurs were collected in Mongolia. As someone who is intimately familiar with these faunas, these specimens were undoubtedly looted from Mongolia. There is no legal mechanism (nor has there been for over 50 years) to remove vertebrate fossil material from Mongolia. These specimens are the patrimony of the Mongolian people and should be in a museum in Mongolia. As a professional paleontologist, am appalled that these illegally collected specimens (with no associated documents regarding provenance) are
being are being sold at auction.


Dr. Mark A. Norell
Chairman and Curator
Division of Paleontology