Triceratops Fossil Found in South Dakota To Be Auctioned For Nearly $2M

by Jennifer Shea

A triceratops fossil that turned up in South Dakota in 2014 is set to be auctioned at a Paris auction house this October. And it could go for about $1.77 million.

Paleontologists discovered the fossil, which they dubbed “Big John,” with a near-complete skull and 60% of its skeleton intact, according to Reuters. They named the triceratops after the owner of the land where more than 200 of the giant herbivore’s bones were found.

See the fossil here:

Triceratops Lived on Island Continent that Stretched from Alaska to Mexico

Big John lived on Laramidia, The Guardian reports. That was an island continent stretching from Alaska to Mexico. The triceratops died in a flood plain that is now the Hell Creek geological formation. He was fossilized and preserved because the plain is made up of sediment.

After paleontologists unearthed the triceratops bones, they brought them to Italy. There they reassembled Big John’s skeleton with help from the Zoic workshop. The workshop’s staff are specialists in restoring prehistoric skeletons.

The triceratops skeleton features a noticeable hole in the herbivore’s bony frill. That’s a combat injury. A smaller rival likely caused it, paleontologist Iacopo Briano told Reuters.

Fossil Is on Display in Paris Before Auction

Big John is a remnant of the Cretaceous period, the final stage of the Mesozoic era. It was roughly 145 to 66 million years ago. Lasting for nearly 80 million years, it is the longest geological period of the current geologic eon.

The triceratops’ skeleton is 5 to 10% bigger than any other triceratops unearthed up to now. It is on display in Paris (at 13 rue des Archives, in the Marais district) before the auction at the Drouot auction house next month.

Dinosaur skeletons used to be sold mainly to museums. They are increasingly going to private buyers instead. But that usually means they cannot be displayed for educational purposes.

“I imagine there are about 10 buyers worldwide for this kind of piece,” Alexandre Giquello, who is leading the sale, told Reuters.

Moreover, dinosaur skeletons are reportedly trendy right now, and the craze for dinosaurs in the wake of movies like “Jurassic Park” has sometimes pushed prices up beyond the reach of museums and research centers. Last October, an allosaurus skeleton went to an anonymous bidder in Paris for over 3 million euros, twice its estimated worth.

Whatever price Big John fetches, the fossil is doubtless of interest to people around the world for its size and relatively intact skeleton. Briano, in fact, compared it to a work of art.

“It’s a masterpiece,” he said.