December 22, 2015

Nicholas Cage outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for a 32-inch-long, 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skull.

He paid $276,000, but turns out it was stolen, and now Cage must send the skull back where it belongs: Mongolia.
“Cultural artifacts such as this Bataar Skull represent a part of Mongolian national cultural heritage,” Glenn Sorge, a special agent with [the United States attorney in Manhattan], said in a statement. “It belongs to the people of Mongolia. These priceless antiquities are not souvenirs to be sold to private collectors or hobbyists.”
ADDED: How is the skull of an animal that died tens of millions of years before there was a Mongolia part of the "Mongolian national cultural heritage"? Mongolia may have a superior claim to the valuable object, and the claim may be based on lofty values of some sort, but it's not a claim based on Mongolian national cultural heritage. Talk about cultural appropriation!

39 comments:

Scott M said...

The last time Leonardo DiCaprio was outbid by another star, it was when DiCaprio's movie production house was bidding against Brad Pitt's for the film rights of Max Brook's best-seller, World War Z. Frankly, given the horrible movie that resulted, I'd have rather DiCaprio won that one.

cubanbob said...

This is yet another example why Cage will always hover around bankruptcy.

MadisonMan said...

I wonder if the Gallery will return his money.

Terry said...

Are Greek antiquities safer in the British museum or the Smithsonian than in the hands of modern Greeks?
Other than physical control of ancient objects, why do the current occupants of a piece of ground own its antiquities?
It used to be common Left-wing snark to say about ME oil reserves 'how did our oil get under their land?'
What the hell makes it their oil? They didn't find it, they didn't get it out of the ground, they couldn't refine it, and they had no use for it other than to sell it to us. What the Hell makes it their oil?

Jake said...

Reminds me of the 2014 documentary Dinosaur 13 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3090252/)

jono39 said...

Who cares>?

Terry said...

cubanbob said...
This is yet another example why Cage will always hover around bankruptcy.

There is something not right about a grown man spending tens of thousands of dollars on comic books.

Freeman Hunt said...

The private sales of such artifacts have worried paleontologists because it makes it harder for the scientific community to learn more about how the dinosaurs once lived.

“We’re losing science, we’re losing education, we’re losing valuable specimens,” Kevin Padian, a paleontologist at University of California, Berkeley, told The Times after the sale of the skull in 2007.


Yes, I'm sure it will be better preserved in Mongolia.

James said...

How is the skull of an animal that died tens of millions of years before there was a Mongolia part of the "Mongolian national cultural heritage"?

This seems like a misguided question. Plymouth Rock existed long before the Pilgrims landed in the New World. Bald eagles existed long before there was a United States.

Bob Boyd said...

Speaking of Mongolian cultural artifacts, I'm surprised Mongolia didn't demand the return of the re-purposed yurt Hillary wore to the last debate.

Hagar said...

Mongolia exists between Russia and China because any move by either of the latter into Mongolia will instantly cause the other to declare war - real war.

William said...

I suppose you could consider a tyrannosaurus skull an investment rather than an indulgence. Still, there's an element of risk in tyrannosaurus skull futures. How do you know that someone won't find a treasure trove of such skulls? There definitely out there looking. Beyond this, how do we know that Tyrannosaurus rex will remain the "it" dinosaur. Perhaps in more peaceful times, sexy Rexy will be supplanted by the brontosaurus. A vogue for brontosaurus bones might be one of the unexpected side effects of Hillary's pantsuits.......As a long term holding one simply cannot justify investment in tyrannosaurus bones.

Brando said...

Just hearing the term "cultural appropriation" makes my eyes roll. Cultural appropriation is a good thing! We're supposed to share, and influence, and be influenced by, other cultures. That's what culture is--every single one is connected to the others in one way or another. Should an Italian smack a bowl of spaghetti out of an Irishman's mouth, or is this wrong simply because a Chinese might have more of a claim on noodles? And which culture has ownership of the bowl itself?

But then, we don't see much complaining about nonwhite cultures appropriating white cultural aspects, such as blacks speaking English or Arabs using modern medicine. So perhaps this isn't a complaint about cultural appropriation per se, but rather a complaint about white culture even existing.

What a hateful, mindless movement that has taken over the Left.

Fernandinande said...

but turns out it was stolen,

The don't supply any info that would indicate it was actually "stolen from the Gobi Desert" (as if a desert would own them).

No doubt locals dug up the fossils and sold them. "Stolen" isn't the same as "violated import laws."

“We’re losing science, we’re losing education, we’re losing valuable specimens,” Kevin Padian,

"We are Special."

CWJ said...

"These priceless antiquities..."

No, $276,000.

People unreflectively calling auction items "priceless" is evergreen.

traditionalguy said...

Speciesists. T Rex was not a lizard and not a mammal. Good riddance, I say.

The Godfather said...

Why doesn't the skull belong to the person who discovered it, and/or the person who owns the land on which it was discovered, or the person who purchased it from the previous owner?

Ann Althouse said...

It's not a T rex. It's va T bataar. What does a puny bataar need to do to get some respect?

SteveR said...

So all these Egyptian artifacts, now in London, from the B.C. period. Shall they be returned so they can be destroyed?

Chris N said...

I wonder if there's some production company or museum willing to outbid each other for DiCaprio/Cage skulls in a few decades.

My money's on the DiCaprio skull.

John Tuffnell said...

I think Genghis Khan, the true founder of "Mongolian national cultural heritage," would enjoy the irony of people having to return stolen goods.

That Genghis. Had a good sense of humor I bet.

He was a uniter, not a divider.

readering said...

Ever since I read my first dinosaur book at age 8 I've associated the Gobi Desert with dinosaur fossils. The Gobi Desert is in Mongolia, right?

Rick said...

Talk about cultural appropriation!

I feel sorry for the campus wingers. It takes them forever to develop a new weapon to use against conservatives and then people use it in unapproved ways which reveal they don't care about the underlying claim at all.

It must be disheartening.

Thorley Winston said...

So how soon after the Mongolian government gets the Tyrannosaurus Rex skull from Nicholas Cage before it ends up back on the black market? Should this be measured in years, months or weeks?

Hagar said...

Partly in Mongolia, partly in China.

madAsHell said...

The Elgin marbles in the British Museum. Entire temple edifices from the Middle East in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin. All the shit Napoleon stole in the Louvre. Where do you draw the line?

Other than that, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!!

Left Bank of the Charles said...

There's a little more backstory to the legal claim:

"Mongolian law enacted in 1924 declares dinosaur fossils to be the property of the Government of Mongolia, and criminalizes their export from the country.
...
On May 22, 2012, the President of Mongolia, Tsakhia Elbegdorj, sent a letter to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York formally requesting the Office's 'assistance in preserving Mongolia's cultural heritage in this rare national treasure by . . . seeking forfeiture of . . . the Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton.'"

Static Ping said...

Wait, isn't Nicholas Cage broke? How could he afford a dinosaur head?

Checked Wikipedia. Yep, he's in all sorts of financial trouble. The dinosaur head was Exhibit A of him living beyond his means. He had to sell that comic book to pay off debts. I'm sure it will hurt to have to give up a 6-figure asset for nothing.

tim maguire said...

The whole concept of cultural heritage is bunkum. No one today has any particuar rights to any product of antiquity (never mind prehistory) simply because they occupy the same patch of dirt. Modern Egyptians aren't meaningfully connected to ancient Egyptians any more than anyone else on earth. Same with Mayans, Greeks, Chinese, or Mongolians. It's all manipulation for personal gain, plain and simple.

wholelottasplainin' said...

Up next: Mongolia charges American restaurantss with cultural appropriation for serving "Mongolian Beef".

RichardJohnson said...

John Tuffnell

That Genghis. Had a good sense of humor I bet.He was a uniter, not a divider.

Though in the process of uniting millions of square miles into an empire, his army was known to now and then perpetrate the division of opponents' heads from their bodies.

Good point about all the stolen/appropriated goods that ended up in the hands of Genghis Khan and his successors. I wonder how many pieces of jewelry or precious metals exacted in tribute to the Mongol Empire still remain in Mongolia.

Roughcoat said...


Tim -

The Copts are the genetic descendants of the ancient Egyptians. The ethnic Arabs who comprise the majority population of Egypt don't like them because the Copts are the "real" people of Kmt, the Black Land ... and, of course, because they are Christians.

The genetic composition of modern Greeks is overwhelmingly Turkic and Slav. They have very little in common, from a genetic standpoint, with the Greeks of Classical antiquity and the Bronze Age.

However, I think modern Mayans may be directly descended from the Mayans of yore. Not sure of this.

The Chinese are ... oh, who can say? Several hundred million Chinese citizens belong to officially recognized non-Chinese (i.e., non-Han) minority groups. The majority Han Chinese consider themselves the "real" Chinese, i.e. the people of authentic Chinese ethnicity. But I don't know anything about the origins of the Han peoples.

The Mongols are, as you indicate, a hybrid people. At the time of Tamujin's rise to power they were also a numerically small people. They increased by absorbing Turkic tribal peoples in the region. Subatoi Bahadur, arguably the greatest of the Mongol generals and one of the greatest generals of all time, was a Tuvan Turk. Some scholars believe that the Mongols had Indo-European elements in their genetic background due to their interaction with the Tocharians; Marco Polo noted that Genghis Khan had red hair, reflecting a partial Indo-European ancestry, but this is disputed.

Leigh said...

Cage should have had Dinesh D'Souza argue his case for him. This "social justice warrior" drive for a comprehensive history do-over -- unraveling centuries' old transactions so that every single item shall be returned to its original owner -- is absolutely nuts. Yet these misguided people, who know nothing of history, soldier on, looking for any social inequity on which they can hurl their white privileges, with all their might.

So much for bona fide purchasers for value. So much for the rule of law and property rights. Who needs free-market capitalism anyway, when we've got socialism and communism, instead. That cancer cure of yours that you worked on for years because your white privilege gave you all that extra time to think and research? Yeah, well, you didn't invent that, so hand it over to the FDA.

The flaws in their argument give way quickly when the social just workers are asked to give up something of their own (as you'll see in the 17-minute D'Souza clip below). It's pretty delicious. (*apologies to Ann if she already posted this.)

http://youtu.be/tN9bu6CP318

Fritz said...

Ann Althouse said...
It's not a T rex. It's va T bataar. What does a puny bataar need to do to get some respect?


Get bought by a Hollywood star, apparently.

Char Char Binks said...

Mongolians didn't build T bataar.

James Pawlak said...

I thought that Mongol heritage involved pyramids of HUMAN skulls.

Freeman Hunt said...

It would be a little funny if DiCaprio had paid Mongolia $200k to get it for him via this method.

jr565 said...

Nick Cage is only doing these terrible terrible movies one after another, because he owes so much to the govt and declared bankruptcy, and needs to make some cash.
Now we know why. He would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a skull.

Methinks both Nick and Leo have a bit too much income for their own good. Rather than pay for a skull, how about putting some money into an inner city or something.

mikee said...

Here in the United States the citizenry as individuals has ownership of mineral rights beneath their property.

I suspect that the Mongolian subjects will see absolutely nothing of the profits from anything coming from under their country's beautiful and stark landscape, because they, like the mineral rights there, belong to the "people" via the government.

What a difference it is being a citizen with a government rather than a subject of the government.