Science Or Scavenging?

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Pablo Edronkin

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The most extraordinary way to win the lottery - or something like that - is to find a new or valuable fossil from an unknown or barely studied species:A well-preserved dinosaur skull can easily command prices ranging into millions of euros, but that's not necessarily good for science.

The existence of an authentic market for vegetal and animal fossils has produced some collateral effects: there is even a black market for these items, and there is plundering and depredation, robbery, smuggling and trafficking as well.. Government agencies as well as the scientific establishment are trying to put an end to this but naturally, wherever and whenever there is a lot of money in-between that may not be very easy.

And sometimes, even the institutions and people intended to protect these resources are the ones who do the 'job,' like what happened a few years ago when an expedition of researchers from Argentina and the United States went to a known fossil bed in San Juan Province, near the Andes, and extricated the fossil remains of what is supposed to be the oldest dinosaur ever uncovered, the 'Eoraptor.'

To make things shorter, the Argentines claim that the U.S. scientists grabbed the fossil and exported it illegally. Plain common sense, legal practices and international treatises state that whenever a fossil, an archaeological treasure or something similar is found, it remains in the country where it is found but granting special research privileges to all other international researchers that worked to fin them; these things are not meant to be exported or taken out.

Smuggling this kind of things is more proper of piracy than scientific research; it says a lot about the moral qualities of the people taking part of such ventures, but since there is a lot of money at stake, it is very difficult to put an end to such deeds. We have to remember that even the U.S. army became a plundering machine as they entered the capital of Iraq to supposedly liberate it from the oppression of Saddam Hussein, while some of its officers and other VIPs from the United States were happily sacking the museums there.

Totemic value? Mysterious things always have some sort of power over people.
Totemic value? Mysterious things always have some sort of power over people.

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