On August 12, 1990, a fossil hunter named Susan Hendrickson found three large bones sticking out of a cliff in South Dakota and soon after, a 90 percent complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton had been excavated from the ground. Test your knowledge of the events with these trivia questions.
How Did Hendrickson Find the Skeleton? In 1990, Susan Hendrickson worked as a paleontologist for the Black Hills Institute. She and a group of colleagues participated in a summer-long hunt across the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation that yielded little outside an Edmontosaurus skeleton. On the last day - August 12 - the group prepared to leave but got a flat tire. While several members of the crew worked to repair the tire, Hendrickson wandered into the previously-unexplored hillside where she discovered several bones jutting out from a nearby cliff.
How Much Did Maurice Williams (The Man Who Owned the Land Where Sue Was Discovered) Make Off the Purchase of Those Bones? So someone just found 90% of a T-Rex in your backyard, how much do you sell that puppy for? $1 million? $10 million? Nope, Maurice Williams sold the right to excavate Sue for only $5,000. When he later realized that, ya know, a T-Rex might be worth a bit more than a month's rent in a New York City apartment, he tried to back out of the deal. Then things got complicated. He was part of the Sioux tribe who claimed that this was their property, not Williams'. Then the U.S. Government got involved and actually had the FBI and National Guard seize the bones, saying they had bought the land from the Sioux tribe. Eventually, a court ruled that it was Maurice Williams' land and he got a do-over on the sale. This time he didn't mess it up. He sent the dinosaur to auction where it sold for $8,362,500, which came out to around $7.5 million after the auction house's fee.
Where is Sue Based Today? Sue is located at the Field Museum in Chicago. After successfully soliciting funding from corporations like Disney and McDonald’s, the Field Museum raised enough money to successfully beat out other major museums like the Smithsonian as well as personal collectors at auction.
Why is This Skeleton So Special?
Sue is the most complete T-rex skeleton yet to be discovered. At 40.5 feet long and 13 feet tall, she’s a sight to see. But Sue also helped paleontologists make some significant discoveries about the Tyrannosaurus rex species. Namely, that the beasts had an incredible sense of smell. Sue’s olfactory bulbs are both larger than her cerebrum, indicating smell was an important sense to the T-rex. She was also the first skeleton recovered with a wishbone, which confirmed scientific theory that birds are a type of living dinosaur. There's one thing paleontologists still can't figure out: its gender. That's right, they know how good it was at smelling stuff, but whether it was a boy or girl eludes them. So if, because of the name, you've spent this entire piece assuming Sue was a girl, then there's a 50% chance you were mistaken. Because, as the great Johnny Cash taught us, even a boy can be named Sue.