The Market for Fossils

Last week, the BBC broadcast an interview with palaeontologist Jorn Hurum, who led the research into the fossil called Ida. A podcast is available from Ida is 47 million years old and an almost complete specimen. It is believed to be an early primate, making it an important evolutionary link. The BBC interview contains a first-hand account of how he ended up buying the fossil on behalf of the Oslo Natural History Museum. The deal was initiated at a vodka bar in Hamburg where Jorn was shown several photos of Ida by a fossil dealer. Ida was initially thought to be an ancestor of the Lemur. Subsequent research shows that it was most likely to be a primate instead (although this is still hotly debated). While Jorn has been criticised for paying around $750,000 for the fossil, it must in fact be worth a lot more than that. Interestingly a number of other scientists have suggested that a “market for fossils” should not exist at all; I suppose they think of fossils as repugnant goods.

Author: kwanghui

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