“Hot bones” is not a term one would normally attach to dinosaur fossils, but as author Paige Williams tells us in her fascinating book The Dinosaur Artist, the black market for illegal fossils, often from Mongolia, is booming. Ostensibly any astute collector, dealer or auctioneer who frequents the major fossil trade expositions like Tucson’s famous Fossil, Gem and Mineral Show can meet someone who can provide entree to this strange, underground world. Reading like a true-crime novel, the book follows the actual trajectory of a singular Florida collector-turned dealer-turned smuggler- turned felon as he penetrates the alien world of Mongolia’s fossil fields. We learn about natural history and some of its key figures, the history of Mongolia and it’s legendary Khan, the science of paleontology, including the preeminent role of the American Museum of Natural History and its scientists in excavating in Mongolia, the workings of today’s busy and often clandestine fossil marketplace, and the unexpected emergence of long-extinct creatures as symbols of national heritage and pride. In the process, we are served up a fascinating array of highly unusual people driven by decidedly odd proclivities. In today’s world, which is given to greater homogenization, there still remain many unique and mysterious corners of life and place which are little or not-at-all known.
Please note that the April meeting is taking place on April 25, one week later than usual, due to religious holidays, and in the Local History Room on the 2nd floor of the Library.
The book for May 16 will be The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox.