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    Description

    AN EXTREMELY RARE SABRE-TOOTHED TIGER SKULL - THE GREAT AMERICAN FOSSIL
    Smilodon fatalis
    Pleistocene
    Rancho La Brea Formation, Los Angeles, California


    Sabre-Toothed Tiger fossils are highly prized among collectors in general, particularly their skulls. The most desirable being those excavated from the Rancho La Brea Formation such as the present specimen. 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 40 years.

    This specimen originates from The Wilshire Hauser 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 appear on the open market.
    The cranium and lower jaws are not composite, but are in fact from the same animal. This is fantastically rare: almost all Smilodon skulls from Rancho La Brea exhibited in museums have disassociated mandibles. In this instance, however, 95% of the skull is original to the specimen, all from the very same animal. All of the teeth are likewise original, apart from one rear incisor, which has been replaced with a cast. Bone texture is outstanding, and preservation for thousands of years in oozing black tar has imparted a warm deep wood-brown patination that is simply gorgeous. The absolute length of the skull is 12¾ inches with impressive, scimitar-shaped canines (sabres) measuring 7 5/8 inches along the outer curve; raised on custom metal display stand and armature, it stands 13 inches high overall. This specimen is not only of outstanding quality, but also of almost unprecedented completeness, and can be considered to be in the top ten of all such specimens known.

    The Great Sabre-Toothed Tiger, 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.

    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 teeth, 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.


    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
    May, 2009
    17th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 34,769

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

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