Lot 167 (Evolution, 27th November 2013)

Sold for £400,000


Lot details
An extremely rare Diplodocus skeleton (Diplodocus longus) known as Misty, Ten Sleep, Wyoming, USA, Jurassic, 432cm.; 14ft high by 1700cm.; 55ft long approximately. The fossil skeleton of one of the most iconic of all dinosaurs, the Diplodocus. This is the first time a large dinosaur has been offered for sale in Britain. Hours of painstaking endeavour have gone into the preparation of this fine specimen - first in retrieving it from its stony bed at Ten Sleep, Wyoming, then in conserving the bones, then in arranging them on the metal armature on which the skeleton is mounted. Like almost all large dinosaur skeletons, some of the bones were missing when the fossil was found and these have been painstakingly replaced with copies. The actual finding of the fossil occurred under remarkable circumstances. The celebrated palaeontologist Raimund Albersdoerfer, along with his partner Henry Galliano, has supervised the removal of several dinosaurs from Dana Quarry, a very important dinosaur site at Ten Sleep (a name derived from Indians for a small Wyoming town ten days travel from one of their sacred places). While working at the quarry during the summer of 2009 he was being distracted by two of his children who had come with him from the family home in Germany. They wanted to find a dinosaur of their own rather than just help extract one their father had found. Raimund, and the rancher who owned the quarry, directed them to a nearby site where both thought there might be a few interesting, but essentially worthless, fragments for the children to play with. The place kept them occupied for hours and they dug furiously. At the end of the day they returned to the main quarry with an announcement: they had found a massive bone, but it was too heavy for them to carry! And they’d also located several others! All work on the main quarry stopped and everyone’s attention was turned to the major new find. After some preliminary work it was realized that the find was better than anyone could have expected, and the location of the bones as they lay in their matrix was carefully mapped before any were extracted. Within nine weeks the entire fossil had been excavated from the hard rock and the individual bones wrapped in plaster jackets for removal to the conservation laboratory. The new quarry was named ‘mystery quarry’ as no-one knows what else might be there, and the dinosaur became known as ‘mystery’ or ‘misty’ for short. Because the bones were found on privately owned land they were free from US export and sale restrictions. After the bones had been consolidated and conserved they were shipped to Holland where master dinosaur builder Aart Walens undertook the major task of mounting them to make a truly spectacular exhibit. The task of making the frame on which they rest, was a very complex undertaking, but now the whole thing can be taken apart and re-mounted with comparative ease. Diplodocus is one of the best known of the sauropods, with its exceptionally long neck and whip-like tail that was probably used for defence against the great carnivores of the time, Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus. The massive forelimbs were slightly shorter than the hind limbs and this may have been the longest of all known dinosaurs. Its remains are found in what are known as the Morrison Formations, a sequence of shallow alluvial sediments laid down in Jurassic times around 150 million years ago. In Britain the Diplodocus is particularly well known due to the exhibit at The Natural History Museum - a specimen that has been a central feature of the collection for more than a century, and occupies pride of place in the main hall. However, it is not always recognized that The Natural History Museum’s Diplodocus is not the real thing, but is an entire replica made from casts of an original kept in Pittsburgh. At the time of this writing Britain does not own a real one!