14 years ago in 2006, a group of ranchers in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana made a monumental fossil find: the largely-complete remains of a triceratops, who died right nearby the bones of a T. Rex, presumably in battle.
But this is America. So, as National Geographic explains:
In the U.S., fossils found on federal land must enter approved repositories, such as accredited museums. But fossils found on private land, such as the Dueling Dinosaurs, can be legally bought and sold.
In 2013, the London-based auctioneer Bonhams persuaded Phipps and the Murrays to try auctioning off the fossil. Despite mixed feelings about giving up control over the buyer's identity, Phipps and the Murrays had significant costs to recoup, and they agreed. But the sale flopped, with bids failing to reach the $6 million minimum bid. The Dueling Dinosaurs left the New York City auction house and entered a storage facility on Long Island.
Years later, Zanno reached out to Phipps through his confidant Pete Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute, a South Dakota commercial paleontology firm, to inquire about selling the Dueling Dinosaurs to the NCMNS. In February 2016, Zanno and a team of museum staff visited the Long Island warehouse. […] Negotiations went smoothly, but before the Dueling Dinosaurs could go to Raleigh, they had to make it through years of grueling U.S. court battles.
The story behind this legal battle is epic and long-winded and absolutely worth a read if you're into things like the minutiae of dinosaur bone legal battles in the stupid US of A (which I totally am). I recommend the summary from National Geographic, or from Smithsonian Magazine.
But if you want to skip to the ending, here's the good news, also summarized by NatGeo (though it comes from the beginning of their article):
After years of legal battles that left the fossil locked away in labs or warehouses, the famed find is headed to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) in Raleigh. Thanks to donors including private foundations and the city, county, and state governments, the nonprofit Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is buying the Dueling Dinosaurs on the museum's behalf for an undisclosed sum.
The fossil will be housed in a new expansion to the museum, including a state-of-the-art paleontology lab, that will open in 2022. "The Dueling Dinosaurs are really a gem that's been hidden away for more than a decade," says Lindsay Zanno, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University and the NCMNS head of paleontology.
I want to turn this epic into an HBO miniseries that jumps back and forth between the court room and the dinosaur battle. I also want to see that fossil.
'Dueling Dinosaurs' fossil, hidden from science for 14 years, could finally reveal its secrets [Michael Greshko / National Geographic]
Will the Public Ever Get to See the "Dueling Dinosaurs"? [Mike Sager / Smithsonian Magazine]
Clashing Titans for Sale [Graham Bowley / New York Times]
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences To Receive The "Dueling Dinosaurs." [Press Release]
Image via YouTube