Actor Nicolas Cage arrives at the screening of Summit Entertainment's "Drive Angry 3D" on February 22. (Photo : Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Nicolas Cage has agreed to return the skull of a powerful dinosaur to Mongolia.
In 2007, the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar was put up for auction in Manhattan, New York. It was sold for $276,000 to an anonymous buyer, who was later revealed to be Nicolas Cage. There were other high-profile people who were outbid by Cage, including Leonardo DiCaprio. The New York Times reported that the dinosaur skull was actually stolen from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and ended up with a seller from Florida.
The actor’s publicist confirmed that Cage bought the skull from I.M. Chait, a gallery in Beverley Hills, in 2007. The Department of Homeland Security got in touch with Cage in 2014 to talk about the skull, informing him that they believe that the skull was illegally taken from Mongola.Cage agreed to turn over the ancient artifact.
The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, has been working to recover artifacts that were smuggled from Mongolia since 2012. A lot of stolen remains were traced to Eric Prokopi from Florida.Prokopi was described as a rich illegal source of prehistoric fossils. He has been arrested and charged with smuggling illegal goods and for possession of stolen property in the past. Reuters revealed that at least 17 other fossils were recovered with the aid of Prokopi.
“Cultural artifacts such as this Bataar Skull represent a part of Mongolian national cultural heritage,” said Glenn Sorge, a special agent with Bharara’s office. “It belongs to the people of Mongolia. These priceless antiquities are not souvenirs to be sold to private collectors or hobbyists.”
Bharara stated that every fossil they recover stands for a culturally and scientifically vital artifact that was stolen from its rightful owner.
Cage is known as a collector of various rare items like comic books and cars. The “National Treasure” star is also interested in real properties. The skull that he turned over will go to the U.S. authorities first before being repatriated to Mongolia.
The Tyrannosaurus bataar is related to the more famous Tyrannosaurus rex. It was a carnivore that roamed the Earth about 70 million years ago. The dinosaur’s remains have only been found in Mongolia. The country made it a crime to export dinosaur fossils in 1924. Since 2012, Bharara’s office has retrieved three full skeletons of the Tyrannosaurus bataar.
More updates and details on recent recoveries by Bharara and Mongolian artifacts are expected soon.