The Dinosaur Artist

The Dinosaur Artist

Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy

Book - 2018
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In this 2018 New York Times Notable Book, Paige Williams "does for fossils what Susan Orlean did for orchids" (Book Riot) in her account of one Florida man's attempt to sell a dinosaur skeleton from Mongolia--a story "steeped in natural history, human nature, commerce, crime, science, and politics" (Rebecca Skloot).

In 2012, a New York auction catalogue boasted an unusual offering: "a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton." In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar , a close cousin to the most famous animal that ever lived. The fossils now on display in a Manhattan event space had been unearthed in Mongolia, more than 6,000 miles away. At eight-feet high and 24 feet long, the specimen was spectacular, and when the gavel sounded the winning bid was over $1 million.

Eric Prokopi, a thirty-eight-year-old Floridian, was the man who had brought this extraordinary skeleton to market. A onetime swimmer who spent his teenage years diving for shark teeth, Prokopi's singular obsession with fossils fueled a thriving business hunting, preparing, and selling specimens, to clients ranging from natural history museums to avid private collectors like actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

But there was a problem. This time, facing financial strain, had Prokopi gone too far? As the T. bataar went to auction, a network of paleontologists alerted the government of Mongolia to the eye-catching lot. As an international custody battle ensued, Prokopi watched as his own world unraveled.

In the tradition of The Orchid Thief , The Dinosaur Artist is a stunning work of narrative journalism about humans' relationship with natural history and a seemingly intractable conflict between science and commerce. A story that stretches from Florida's Land O' Lakes to the Gobi Desert, The Dinosaur Artist illuminates the history of fossil collecting--a murky, sometimes risky business, populated by eccentrics and obsessives, where the lines between poacher and hunter, collector and smuggler, enthusiast and opportunist, can easily blur.

In her first book, Paige Williams has given readers an irresistible story that spans continents, cultures, and millennia as she examines the question of who, ultimately, owns the past.
Publisher: New York : Hachette Books, 2018
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316382533
Branch Call Number: 560.75 W6747D 2018
Characteristics: xxii, 410 pages ; 24 cm


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Mar 08, 2019

Barbara Tuchman, one of the eminent historians the 20th Century produced, wrote a superb essay, "Practicing History", in which she made the emphatic point that you must know what to leave out. Elements of Style, by the incomparable Strunk & White, provides clear guidance on sentence structure.

Thus endeth my required reading list for Paige Williams.

Oh- if you introduce esoteric terms, it is helpful to the reader to define them....

SCL_Justin Jan 30, 2019

I liked this book, but I feel like the way Prokopi was portrayed kind of downplayed the severity of the punishments he could face so by the time the law catches up with him, as a reader I was also kind of surprised that all the stuff he did was illegal. Also, there was less dinosaur stuff than I expected; fossil-hunters aren’t necessarily dino geeks is something I learned.

Jan 17, 2019

Oh I really wanted to like this book. The story is good. But the author simply cannot stop adding information that at the least, we don't need and at the worst is just filler. You know what? I don't care if the main figure, Eric Prokopi, never had a baby sitter or went to daycare. And the nearly chapter-long digression on Ghenghis Khan is not necessary at all. If she had focussed on the fossils, the hunters and the questions of legality, she would have been all right. As it was, 3/4 of the way through, I gave up. Disappointing.

Dec 07, 2018

Read this book if you're less interested in information about fossil hunters and more interested in the entire history of Mongolia and their complex legal system, descriptions of people's facebook posts and also a timeline of when they joined facebook, a detailed description that includes brand names of how each person discussed dresses, among other obnoxious trivial information that honestly makes up the bulk of this book. The narrative is all over the place and in the end really spends very little time talking about the actual crime/trial. If you want to read about privileged people "unknowingly" breaking laws, whining about how their privilege isn't a bad thing, then getting a sympathetic slap on the wrist that they whine about some more then by all means check this book out, but it's a slog and not one that is worth it.

OPL_ErinD Sep 11, 2018

Great read for anyone interested in the science of paleontology, the business of fossils or just looking for an entertaining, narrative true story with a bit of intrigue.


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