The Dinosaur will be a highlight of Sotheby’s Geek Week.
For the first time since the watershed sale of Sue the T-Rex in 1997*, Sotheby’s New York will auction a finished dinosaur later this month, with the first-ever Gorgosaurus skeleton to be offered at auction.
Measuring nearly 10 feet tall and 22 feet long, it will be a highlight of Sotheby’s live Natural History sale taking place on 28 July with an estimate of $5/8 million, making it one of the most valuable dinosaurs to ever appear on the market. The Gorgosaurus will go on public display for the first time on 21 July at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries.
A member of the Tyrannosaurid family, whose name translates as “fierce” or “terrifying” lizard, the Gorgosaurus was a fearsome apex carnivore that reigned during the Late Cretaceous period, roaming the earth approximately 77 million years ago. Native to what is now Western North America, this specimen was discovered in 2018 in the Judith River Formation near Havre, Montana, a historically important formation that has been excavated by paleontologists for over a century.
The discovery was particularly exceptional due to the rarity of Gorgosaurus material south of the Canadian border, this being one of only a tiny handful to be found in the United States. All known skeletons, both from the U.S. and Canada, are housed in institutional collections, making this the only specimen of its kind available for private ownership.
The Natural History auction in which the Gorgosaurus will be offered is part of Sotheby’s Geek Week sales series, which also includes a sale dedicated to meteorites and a single-lot live auction of the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Bucherer BLUE, the first triple-axis tourbillion to travel to space. Further sale details related to the Geek Week series will be announced soon.
A close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex, predating it by around 10 million years, the Gorgosaurus was slightly smaller in size but shares several distinguishing features including a large head, dozens of curved serrated teeth, and small two-fingered front limbs. A typical adult male could weigh up to two tons, and its large size was accompanied by an acute sense of smell and hawk-like eyesight.
Paleontologists speculate that Gorgosaurus was faster and fiercer than its cousin the T. rex, believing that it had a stronger bite force of 42,000 newtons (compared to a T.rex’s 35,000), which is more powerful than any animal living on earth today. As the master hunter of its time, which it was believed to have hunted in packs of four, the Gorgosaurus was a dominant force and a singular predator.
The Gorgosaurus’ body proportions are typical of swift-moving biped dinosaurs, with powerful hind legs and a large tail that acted as a counterbalance while running. This specimen, which was a very large, mature individual at the time of death, has a particularly well-preserved skull, including a left maxilla and an assortment of cranial bones.
Crucially the specimen also contains the three major bones which create the orbit, the feature which distinguishes the Gorgosaurus from the T. rex. The axial skeleton is represented by the neck, back, and tail vertebrae (cervical, dorsal, and caudal), and a well-preserved pelvis, with all eleven elements represented including complete pubis bones. Other vertebral elements comprising ribs and tail chevrons were also recovered and preserved in exquisite detail by the advanced paleontological methods used to excavate the bones.
The condition of the skeleton is remarkably pristine due to the slowly deposited sediments of the river ecosystem typical to the area where it was excavated. The green mudstones that contain the fossils were a continuous deposition overlaid by thick sands, providing the unique conditions and environment to preserve the specimen.
*Sotheby’s has a long history with the auction of dinosaur specimens and was the first auction house in history to offer a full skeleton in 1997 when the famed ‘Sue,’ one of the biggest dinosaurs ever found, achieved $8.36 million, at the time breaking a record for the most valuable fossil to sell at auction. The sale of Sue marked a major landmark in the market for dinosaur fossils, as it marked the first dinosaur ever sold at auction.