Science

Going, going, extinct: Rare 76 million-year-old T. rex skull is up for auction

It’s a rare chance to own a large piece of Cretaceous history.

A roughly 76 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex skull is set to be auctioned off Friday in New York City. The fossil could fetch up to $20 million, according to Sotheby’s, the auction house handling the sale.

The 200-pound skull, dubbed Maximus, includes most of the external bones on the right and left side, as well as an intact jaw with numerous upper and lower teeth. Sotheby’s said the T. rex skull is one of the most complete ever discovered.

The fossil was unearthed during excavations in 2020 and 2021 on private land in Harding County, South Dakota. The area’s Hell Creek Formation — an expanse of rock that stretches across parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming — is where many Cretaceous Period fossils have been discovered, including a famed specimen, “Sue the T. rex.

Sue remains the most complete and best-preserved skeleton of a T. rex ever found. The specimen was sold by Sotheby’s for $8.3 million in 1997, and is currently on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.

A separate T. rex fossil known as Stan, which was sold in 2020 for a record $31.8 million, was also excavated from the Hell Creek Formation. The geological formation has also yielded fossils of Triceratops, Edmontosaurus and Ankylosaurus, among other Cretaceous Period specimens.

The Maximus skull is about 6.5 feet tall and is mounted on an iron pedestal. The rest of the specimen’s skeleton was largely destroyed by erosion at the dig site, according to Sotheby’s.

The bones are thought to have been from an adult T. rex, auction house officials said.

Sale of the skull includes field photographs and an inventory of the bones and bone fragments, along with documentation on the fossil’s condition, authenticity and legality of ownership.

The Sotheby’s live auction opens Friday at 10 a.m. ET.

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