US hands over looted dinosaur fossils to Mongolia

April 6, 2016
People take pictures of Mongolian fossils before a Repatriation ceremony in New York on April 5, 2016
People take pictures of Mongolian fossils before a Repatriation ceremony in New York on April 5, 2016

The United States on Tuesday handed back to Mongolia fossil remains of six species of dinosaur smuggled out of the country and impounded by agents in New York and Utah.

The largest item was the skull of an Alioramus, an exceptionally rare dinosaur believed to have roamed the Gobi Desert 66 to 70 million years ago.

A relative of the more widely known Tyrannosaurus, only two specimens are reported in , both of them from Mongolia. US authorities described the fossil as the most complete Alioramus skull yet discovered.

The skull was confiscated by customs after being shipped from France with false papers claiming it was a cheap replica, US authorities said. The shipper later submitted forged Mongolian export documents, officials added.

Mongolia determined that fossils are national property in 1924, and their export is strictly forbidden.

Tuesday's ceremony, hosted by the US attorney for Brooklyn, is the latest in a series of returns of fossils to Mongolia in recent years, including a Tarbosaurus bataar dating back 70 million years.

"We are proud of our role in restoring this rich paleontological heritage to the Mongolian people and taking these cultural treasures from the hands of looters and smugglers," said Robert Capers, US attorney for Brooklyn.

Before Tuesday, 23 had been repatriated to Mongolia from the United States in the last three years, said Mongolia's ambassador to the United States, Altangerel Bulgaa.

Mongolia paleontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin described the Alioramus as an extremely rare dinosaur and said only two specimens reported in the scientific literature, and both from Mongolia.

Explore further: US seizes fossil in latest dinosaur smuggling case

Related Stories

US returns more Mongolian dinosaur bones

May 10, 2013

Mongolia may need to rustle up some more glass cases for its first dinosaur museum after US authorities announced Friday they will hand back a large new collection of stolen fossils.

Dinosaur skull seized in US tied to Mongolia case (Update)

December 3, 2012

(AP)—A dinosaur skull seized from a Wyoming home is related to an investigation into fossil smuggling from Mongolia, indicating that efforts to stem the illegal trade are making progress, an attorney said Monday.

US gives dinosaur skeleton back to Mongolia

May 6, 2013

The United States on Monday gave back to Mongolia the remains of a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus skeleton stolen from the Gobi desert and sold at auction in New York.

US: Dinosaur skeletons returning home to Mongolia

July 11, 2014

U.S. officials on Thursday turned over to the Mongolian government enough 80 million-year-old dinosaur skeletons to stock a museum, including two relics of a kind of dinosaur that a prosecutor said "memorably stampeded" in ...

US sues to force return of dinosaur to Mongolia

June 19, 2012

(AP) — The fossil of a dinosaur that roamed the earth 70 million years ago should be turned over to the United States by an auction house so that it can be returned to its home in Mongolia, a lawsuit brought by the U.S. ...

Recommended for you

Earth's deep mantle flows dynamically

March 25, 2019

As ancient ocean floors plunge over 1,000 km into the Earth's deep interior, they cause hot rock in the lower mantle to flow much more dynamically than previously thought, finds a new UCL-led study.

Scientists solve mystery shrouding oldest animal fossils

March 25, 2019

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have discovered that 558 million-year-old Dickinsonia fossils do not reveal all of the features of the earliest known animals, which potentially had mouths and guts.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.