Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    An Extremely Rare Saber-Tooth Cat Skull - The Iconic American Fossil
    Smilodon fatalis
    Pleistocene
    Rancho La Brea Formation
    Los Angeles, California, USA

    Saber -Tooth Cat fossils are highly prized among collectors, particularly their skulls. The most desirable being those excavated from the Rancho La Brea Formation such as the present specimen. Despite the large collection of Smilodon fatalis fossils amassed at the George C. Page Museum in Los Angeles, there have been less than 10 full skulls available commercially. Fossils from this locality are seldom seen for sale due to their rarity in private collections and the fact that the site has been closed to private collecting for almost 50 years.

    The present specimen is unmatched in its completeness and size and rates high both in scientific integrity and desirability. Merriam & Stock* records the largest Smilodon fatalis skull in the Los Angeles County Museum collection to reach 324.7 mm measured from the anterior edge of the premaxilla to the end of the occipital condyles. Measured in this same manner, the skull offered here is 355.5 mm, ranking it the largest Smilodon fatalis skull ever recorded!

    This specimen originates from The Wilshire Hauser Tar Pit, located directly across the street from the original Tar Pit discovery at Rancho La Brea. Rancho La Brea is probably the single most important Late Pleistocene locality in North America. It is renowned for its extensive collections of well-preserved mammals and birds, as well as numerous insects, gastropods and plant remains. A series of Carbon 14 dates ranging from 12,650 ±160 to 19,300 ±395 B.P. were obtained on Smilodon bones from other collections. This places the present specimen's geologic age as Late Pleistocene or Wisconsinan Glaciation (Rancholabrean land mammal age), or approximately between 12-20 thousand years old.

    Without a doubt, the present specimen is the finest ever to become available on the open market. The cranium and lower jaws were both found together and were intact. Another rare feature to this specimen is that it was found with a completely intact nasal septum. 95% of the skull is original to the specimen and from the same individual. Most of the teeth, including the huge sabers, are likewise original, with few exceptions on the lower jaws. The bone quality is outstanding, and the preservation of thousands of years in the churning black tar has imparted a warm deep mahogany patination that is simply gorgeous. The absolute length of the skull is 14 inches with impressive, scimitar-shaped canines (sabers) measuring just over 10 inches in length along the outer curve.

    The Smilodon is a member of the family of true cats (Felidae), classified under a separate subfamily, Machairodontinae. Its most striking and unique features are found in the skull and sabers, but the animal's external appearance has been inferred through studies of the whole skeletal structure. Overall body proportions were different from those of any living felid, although the animal approximated the same size and weight of the modern African lion.

    The Great Saber-Tooth Cat, S. fatalis, ranged throughout North America during the last Ice Age. Fossils belonging to these extraordinary cats are not found outside of the New World and are therefore considered an American paleontological icon - S. fatalis itself is the official state fossil of California.

    Accompanied with a letter from the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History stating that this specimen was obtained legally.

    Comes complete with a custom display stand.


    * Merriam, J.C., & Stock, C., Felidae of Rancho La Brea. Carnegie Institution of Washington Pub. 422.
    Overall Measurements: 13.50 x 6.00 x 15.50 inches (34.29 x 15.24 x 39.37 cm)


    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. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. 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.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2019
    28th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 6,120

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Charges to be determined based on Actual Shipping Costs incurred. Note: Additional invoice may follow original. Please contact us for more information. Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions  |  Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments |  Glossary of Terms

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 April 20 Silver & Vertu Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    As a consignor to your recent silver, art glass and fine art auction, I want you to know how pleased I am with my decision to consign with Heritage
    C. B. ,
    Leesburg, VA
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2014 November 21 Tiffany, Lalique & Art Glass Signature Auction
    2014 November 21 Tiffany, Lalique & Art Glass Signature Auction
    REALIZED $1,441,296
    2014 November 17 American Art Signature Auction
    2014 November 17 American Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $6,712,638
    2014 November 14 American Indian Art , Pre-Columbian, & Tribal Art Signature Auction
    2014 Nov 14 American Indian Art, Pre-Columbian & Tribal Art Auction
    REALIZED $441,524
    2014 November 8 Modern & Contemporary Art Signature Auction
    2014 November 8 Modern & Contemporary Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $5,683,719
    2014 November 6 Silver & Vertu Signature Auction
    2014 November 6 Silver & Vertu Signature Auction
    REALIZED $439,980
    2014 October 18 The Belo Collection of Texas Art Signature Auction
    2014 October 18 The Belo Collection of Texas Art Signature Auction
    REALIZED $624,835
    2014 October 16 Photographs Signature Auction
    2014 October 16 Photographs Signature Auction
    REALIZED $824,108
    2014 September 28 Nature & Science Signature Auction
    2014 September 28 Nature & Science Signature Auction
    REALIZED $1,089,341
    2014 Sept 13-14 Gentleman Collector Signature Estate Auction
    2014 Sept 13-14 Gentleman Collector Signature Estate Auction
    REALIZED $1,725,292
    2019 October 15 Illustration Art Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 October 15 Illustration Art Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $2,702,373