Description

    EXCEPTIONAL "BIRD-DINOSAUR" SKULL
    Oviraptor philoceratops
    Late Cretaceous, Campanian stage
    Djadochta Formation, Central Asia

    The Oviraptors are among the most bizarre carnivorous dinosaurs ever found. First discovered in 1923 by the legendary paleontologist and explorer Roy Chapman Andrews during expeditions in the Gobi Desert, Oviraptor was represented by a single, heavily crushed skull and some disarticulated bones. Despite its condition Andrews, the discoverer of Velociraptor and the real life adventurer upon whom the character of Indiana Jones was based, knew he had something unique. The name, meaning "egg seizer", was suggested by the close proximity of the skull to a nest of what were assumed at the time to be the eggs of Protoceratops, a common ceratopsian dinosaur found at the same site.

    By the 1970's, however, several finds of Oviraptor had been made and it was realized that not only were the eggs found in the 1920's not Protoceratops, they were in fact the eggs of Oviraptor itself. Even more startling was the discovery that there were apparently several species of Oviraptor and that some had strange crests, weirdly recurved beaks and other features so strikingly different from other carnivorous dinosaurs that they were amongst the most unique theropod dinosaurs ever found. New finds in the 1990's showed that most oviraptors were even covered with feathers and that they sat over their eggs much like modern birds, such that a time traveler going back 70 million years to the Late Cretaceous era would probably have not even realized these were dinosaurs! Modern debate still rages regarding their lifestyle and biology. Suggestions as to diet made from studies of the skull and the unusually powerful beak have ranged wildly from mammals, lizards and even molluscs such as clams. Their strange appearance and rapacious reputation have made the Oviraptor a staple of popular culture; it has even appeared in video games, twice depicted as being able to spit poison! While such ideas are likely far-fetched, no solid evidence has ever been found so we still do not know just how dangerous this predator may have been.

    The present 8-inch long skull offered here is easily one of the finest and most spectacular examples ever seen of this species of carnivorous dinosaur. The skull is virtually perfect with barely 1% restoration and nearly every bit of it has been carefully prepped free of the rock in which it was entombed for over 70 million years. Professional technicians labored for months with hand tools to expose the delicate crest and truss-like bones of the skull and, as they progressed, it was discovered to be so complete and intact that even the strange ring of bones in one eye was preserved, perfect and uncrushed. The second of these sclerotic rings, support for the large eyeball, was cast from this singularly perfect find. Unlike most dinosaur specimens, this highly delicate skull was incredibly uncrushed and undistorted so no complex repair was ever required. One professional described this specimen as "breathtaking", while another famous paleontologist called it "one of the best Oviraptorosaur skulls I've ever seen."

    A unique, world-class specimen, it is mounted on a discrete metal armature over a hand-finished dark American oak base, and stands 8 5/8 inches high overall.


    Estimate: $50,000 - $65,000.

    Condition Report*:

    Condition report available upon request.

    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2009
    17th-18th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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