Sue pin from Field Museum

Sue pin from Field Museum

Unveiled in 2000, SUE, the 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex is the largest, most complete, and best preserved T. rex ever found.

The Field Museum was incorporated in the State of Illinois on September 16, 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with its purpose the “accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation

"Sue" exhibited in Field Museum

“Sue” exhibited in Field Museum

and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history.” In 1905, the Museum’s name was changed to Field Museum of Natural History to honor the Museum’s first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and to better reflect its focus on the natural sciences. In 1921 the Museum moved from its original location in Jackson Park to its present site on Chicago Park District property near downtown where it is part of a lakefront Museum Campus that includes the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. These three institutions are regarded as among the finest of their kind in the world and together attract more visits annually than any comparable site in Chicago.

“Sue” is the nickname given to FMNH PR 2081, one of the largest, most extensive and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever found. It has a length of 12.3 metres (40 ft), stands 4 metres (13 ft) tall at the hips, and is estimated to have weighed more than 9 short tons (8.2 t) when alive. It was discovered in the summer of 1990 by Sue Hendrickson, a paleontologist, and was named after her. After ownership disputes were settled, the fossil was auctioned in October 1997 for US $8.36 million, the highest amount ever paid for a dinosaur fossil, and is now a permanent feature at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.

During the summer of 1990, a group of workers from the Black Hills Institute, located in Hill City, searched for fossils at the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, in western South Dakota near the city of Faith. By the end of the summer, the group had discovered Edmontosaurus bones and was ready to leave. However, before the group could depart, on August 12, a tire on their truck was deflated. While the rest of the group went into town to repair the truck, Sue Hendrickson decided to explore the nearby cliffs that the group had not checked. As she was walking along the base of a cliff, she discovered some small pieces of bone. She looked above her to see where the bones had originated, and observed larger bones protruding from the wall of the cliff. She returned to camp with two small pieces of the bones and reported the discovery to the president of the Black Hills Institute, Peter Larson. He determined that the bones were from a T. rex by their distinctive contour and texture. Later, closer examination of the site showed many visible bones above the ground and some articulated vertebrae. The crew ordered extra plaster and, although some of the crew had to depart, Hendrickson and a few other workers began to uncover the bones. The group was excited, as it was evident that much of the dinosaur had been preserved. Previously discovered T. rex skeletons were usually missing over half of their bones. It was later ascertained that Sue was a record 80 percent complete. Scientists believe that this specimen was covered by water and mud soon after its death which prevented other animals from carrying away the bones. Additionally, the rushing water mixed the skeleton together. When the fossil was found, the hip bones were above the skull, and the leg bones were intertwined with the ribs. The large size and the excellent condition of the bones were also surprising. The skull was nearly five feet long, and most of the teeth were still intact. After the group completed excavating the bones, each vertebra was covered in burlap and coated in plaster, followed by a transfer to the offices of The Black Hills Institute where preparators began to clean the bones.

Soon after the remains were found, a dispute arose over who was the legal owner of the bones. The Black Hills Institute had obtained permission from the owner of the land, Maurice Williams, to excavate and remove the skeleton, and had, according to Larson, paid Williams $5,000 for the remains. But Williams later claimed that the money had not been for the sale of the fossil and that he had only allowed Larson to remove and clean the fossil for a later sale. Williams, however, was a member of the Sioux tribe, and the tribe claimed the bones belonged to them. However, the property that the fossil had been found within was held in trust by the United States Department of the Interior. Thus, the land technically belonged to the government. In 1992, the FBI and the National Guard raided the site where The Black Hills Institute had been cleaning the bones and seized the fossil. The government transferred the remains to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where it was stored until the legal dispute was settled. After a lengthy trial, the court decided that Maurice Williams retained ownership, and the remains were returned in 1995. Williams then decided to sell the remains, and contracted with Sotheby’s to auction the property. Many were then worried that the fossil would end up in a private collection where people would not be able to observe it. The Field Museum in Chicago was also concerned about this possibility, and decided to attempt to purchase Sue. However, the organization realized that they might have had difficulty securing funding and decided to request that companies and private citizens provide financial support. The California State University system, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, McDonald’s, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and individual donors agreed to assist in purchasing Sue for The Field Museum. On October 4, 1997, the auction began at $500,000; less than ten minutes later, The Field Museum had purchased the remains with the highest bid of $8,362,500. The winning bid was $7.6 million before Sotheby’s commission.

Pin obtained in Chicago at O’Hare airport June 23, 2014

Location: 16-E2

Advertisements