Ancient Egyptian mummy’s head, dinosaur skull at Heritage auction

DALLAS — Ancient history — think mummies, dinosaurs and precious minerals — is the name of the game on Jan. 17, 2010, as Heritage Auctions presents a dramatic array of natural history treasures in its Signature® Natural History Auction, live, in-person and online at

"Heritage Natural History auctions are always about offering the broadest array possible," said David Herskowitz, Director of Natural History Auctions at Heritage.

There can be no question that the Western world has long been obsessed with all things ancient Egypt, and especially so since the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922; a common source of fascination is mummies.

That allure is front and center with one of the auction’s key highlights, an authentic Egyptian mummy head, which, judging from its well-executed mummification, has a possible date to between the New Kingdom and the Ptolemaic period. It is estimated at $25,000-$35,000.

"This incredible specimen is indeed the actual head from an Egyptian mummy," said Herskowitz. "It’s a remarkable specimen, complete with the original wrappings over the top of the head and part of the neck region with several cervical vertebrae still attached. Imprints around the eye sockets suggest that they were once covered, possibly with coins with which to pay for passage to the afterlife. It exhibits no distortion and is beautifully prepared, indicating that this may well have been a high status individual."

Heritage Auctions’ January Natural History event also offers an outstanding grouping of dinosaur fossils and bones. A nicely preserved 75 percent original skull of a Cretaceous period Protoceratops andrewsi, one of the world’s best-known dinosaurs and an important sheep-sized ancestor of the giant horned dinosaurs like Triceratops, leads the way (estimated at $35,000-$45,000), while an outstanding 75-80 percent complete Pteranodon sternbergi, or "Flying Dinosaur," estimated at $40,000-$55,000, is sure to garner equal attention and spirited bidding.

"In the world of high-end mineral collecting there are almost no specimens more famous, or valuable than the ‘Blue Cap Tourmalines’ found 37 years ago in the Tourmaline Queen Mine in San Diego, Calif.," said Herskowitz, "and most of those are in museums and some are in private collections. So it’s with great pleasure that we are offering a large Blue Cap Tourmaline from this important find in our January auction. This is the first one I’ve seen on the market in about 12 years."

Besides the considerable size of some of the crystals recovered, they were — and are — immediately recognizable from their almost unheard-of reddish-pink bodies and deep navy blue terminations, all in the same crystal.

The number of large or multiple crystal specimens, like this example, was very small and most of these have been the crown jewels at the Smithsonian Institution and a small number of other collections. This example has graced the private collection of Signore Walter Lago of Italy for 37 years, is comprised of two major and one minor crystal, measuring respectively 4 1/2 by 2 inches; 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches; and 1 1/2 by 1/2 inches; it carries a presale estimate of $110,000-$140,000.

"If I had to make a comparison with any other aspect of Natural History finds," said Herskowitz, "I’d say that having a large Blue Cap Tourmaline is equivalent to finding a fully intact T-Rex; it’s that spectacular."

Further highlights include, but are not limited to:

– More than 85 taxidermy specimens from a Texas collector, ranging from a Russian grizzly bear to deer, primates, African antelope and a giraffe.

– A lunar meteorite estimated at $25,000-$35,000.

– A chassignite Martian meteorite estimated at $3,500-$4,500.

– A high quality specimen of a T-Rex tooth, with only a small percentage of restoration, measuring 3 3/8 inches long by a massive 1 3/8 inches across the base. Estimate: $8,500-$10,000.

– A nest of raptor eggs comprised of seven good-sized egg specimens, the largest of which is an impressive 9 inches long, with a further three poking out from underneath. As is usual, there is some cracking to most of the fragile fossil shells, but several retain good coverage with superb texture, nestled in the natural clay matrix which measures 22 by 15 1/2 inches. The nest is estimated at $8,500-$10,000.

For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, visit

Photos courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries.


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