Museum's Display of T. Rex Unveiled

Wednesday, May 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) — Sixty-five million years after she stalked the Earth, a Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue was on her feet again, crouched with her tail stretched out behind her.

Hundreds of children and onlookers who packed into the main hall of the Field Museum of Natural History stared in awe today as a curtain dropped to reveal the largest, most complete and best-preserved T. rex skeleton ever discovered.

``It was a grand entrance,'' Mayor Richard Daley said after a chamber orchestra played the specially commissioned ``Tyrannosaurus Sue: A Cretaceous Concerto'' by composer Bruce Adolphe.

The 41-foot-long skeleton — named for Sue Hendrickson, the fossil hunter who found it in 1990 — is one of the most talked about and debated fossil finds in history.

Sue cost the museum $8.36 million at an auction that had been delayed for years by a legal battle with the federal government, the Sioux Indian tribe and a rancher all claiming ownership.

Federal agents seized the bones in 1992, claiming the fossil hunters failed to get a federal permit to dig for them on the rancher's land located inside the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. After a $7 million investigation, the government found no crime but prosecuted Hendrick's partner Peter Larson on currency violation charges involving overseas fossil sales.

A court eventually declared the rancher the fossil's rightful owner, and Sue was auctioned in 1997. After a 10-minute bidding frenzy, the Field Museum bought it for $8.36 million, criticized as an outrageous sum.

To cover Sue's cost, the Field took on McDonald's and Disney as partners. Both get exclusive rights to casts of Sue's bones.

``Sue has waited for this for a long time,'' Hendrickson said.

By any measure, the skeleton is big — 13 feet tall at the hips, 41 feet long and teeth as long as a human forearm.

The museum is displaying ``her'' (scientists aren't sure whether Sue was male or female) in the main hall. A lightweight cast replaces the one-ton skull on the skeleton because that real one is too heavy. It's displayed in a nearby case.

``I thought it was going to be bigger, but it is very complete,'' said Jared Dickerson, a seventh-grader who won a trivia contest to get an invitation to the unveiling. ``The coolest thing is knowing how fast and big it was. And I heard it could eat a whole human in two bites.''


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