This is the first fossilized bones excavated in science is realized they were once part of the skeleton of a very large creature that will many millions of years ago, dinosaurs and that the collective consciousness of humanity and is remain there for well over a century. This is always been particularly true of children, especially young boys, and as they grow to manhood, and when you go to manhood. They are one of the childish pursuits, we never quite leave behind. The dire on either me or my second grade science project featured my collection of plastic dinosaurs, each with their name and the ever they live discreetly stamped on them. If for some reason you require additional proof that dinosaurs remain fascinating to adults. Just consider when Steven Spielberg’s most successful franchises, ‘Jurassic Park’. Coming soon to the others in Real 3-D is ‘Jurassic World’, the first new offering in the franchise in 14 years. When parents first take their children to a major Museum of Natural History, the one exhibit that is certain to enthrall all ages is the dinosaurs. Having been fortunate to grow up in New York City when my turn came for such an experience, I was fortunate enough to view one of the best collections available. Standing in front of a life-size skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex remains one of the most memorable moments of my life. I didn’t care that the display was comprised of replica bones as the crisis actual fossils remain safely hidden storage. The only thoughts in my mind were how to use this creature was; fearsome as it rolled a world populated by monsters. When my email containing the notification of the release of a documentary titled, ‘Dinosaur 13’ I admit that I was thrilled as the seven-year-old still residing somewhere in my mind was ecstatically waiting for the screen into arrive. This is the third film by independent documentarian, Todd Douglas Miller, and it undoubtedly reveals a true passion for the subject as presented to a very talented and stylistic eye.
Most dinosaur exhibit on display in museums is usually an amalgamation of bones from numerous different sites piece together using modern animal or other similar fossil finds as a guide. Missing pieces were constructed from educated guesses based on the most current understanding of physiology and anatomy. When a near complete skeleton of a single animal is found scientific community takes an immediate avid interest. In 1990, paleontologist Pete Larson, and his research team were digging in the traditionally fossil rich region of the Badlands of South Dakota. What they discovered was not only a significant find from a research perspective, but it would ignite the imagination of millions. Significantly enhancing the excitement among both paleontologists and dinosaur fans in general, was the fact that the creature was a Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the most well-known and popular dinosaurs ever discovered. The monumental importance of such a discovery soon eclipsed when Mr. Lawson found himself incarcerated in a federal prison in Colorado for period of 18 months. Although he had only earned a bachelor’s degree in geology, Lawson was considered as part of the paleontology community. Having excavated warned the direct skeletons that any of the researcher. Some of the most well-known and respected men in the field, including Dr. Robert Bakker and Dr. Jack Horner, have vouched for the quality of Lawson’s work and the significance of his findings the field of paleontology. Legal justification used for the arrest, prosecution and eventual incarceration of Mr. Lawson was considered politically motivated in collaboration between National Park Service, the Bureau for Indian affairs. There was some in the scientific community that held Lawson in the stain was selling some finds to museums and private collections. See was technically an amateur paleontologist; he had to rely upon private donations as the major source of funding for his digs. This documentary provides a look at the 10 year struggle to confront the legal, professional and moral issues that this find ignited. Skeleton has been given the name of ‘Sue’ and is one of the most popular exhibits in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois. The name is based on a purely anthologist credited with finding the skeleton, Susan Hendrickson, who had been working with Lawson on the dig. For those who enjoy popular supernatural fiction, Sue is brought back to life in the novel ‘Dead Beat’ part of the Harry Dresden Chronicles written by Jim Butcher.
The film provides a glimpse of the childhood of Pete Larson and his brother Neal, who spent much of their time prospecting for fossils in South Dakota. Together they founded ‘Black Hills Institute’ in the Small Community, Hills City. When Susan Hendrickson uncovered the fossils, the brothers intended to put the skeleton on display in the Institute, thereby conferring an air of legitimacy to the Institute. Questions were soon raised over the legality of the find suspicious that the excavation was on land held by the federal government specifically for Native American tribes. A truly remarkable feature of this documentary is that the filmmaker was able to obtain and subsequently incorporate film that was made during the dig itself. There understandably a number of interviews with experts and people directly involved with the controversy. The inclusion of actual footage of the dig, as it was proceeding, as the sense of intimacy, pulling the audience directly into the excitement felt by the researchers. By the time it comes to delve into the legalities behind the controversy, the audience is able to understand the emotional investment built by Lawson and his team. The irony inherently contain in the legal action is that that they occurred in a time before GPS technology, which would’ve expedited the resolution.
The name of the film, ‘Dinosaur 13’, is a subtle reveal concerning the primary focus of the documentarian. He treats ‘Sue’ almost like a Hitchcockian McGuffin, of crucial importance to the people involved in the action by providing most of the information to interviews, but almost incidental to the story as being told to the audience. Mr. Miller primarily focuses on the effect such a scientific find induces on the people, not the find itself. There’s a feeling that Mr. Lawson experienced ostracizing prejudice from the mainstream paleontology community because of his lack of a doctorate. He was too busy engaged in fieldwork to take the necessary time for formal training in academia in order to obtain the proper set of letters after his name. Having worked for considerable number of years in biomedical research, I can fully appreciate the veracity of this viewpoint. Considerable information is provided about the repercussions of the find. The group was fined $5000 to be paid to the land owner of the property and subsequently sued by the federal government on behalf of the Native American tribes. An order of seizure was issued, resulting in three dozen members of the National Guard entering the Institute to confiscate the fossil remains. Obviously, these soldiers were not properly trained in the necessary care included measures required to pack in transport fossils over 65 million years of age. Eventually, when the dust cleared, ‘Sue’ was auctioned off for millions of dollars. The underlying controversy that few people consider with regards scientific research is its commercialization. With additional funding sources drying up to the economic downturns, many researchers are forced to look for alternative means of funding their research. This is of particular importance in some of the scientific disciplines that are not after technology that can be technologically viable to the consumer. As noted, fully credentialed, mainstream paleontologists, have recognized the value of Lawson’s work, yet he was forced to find nontraditional sources of raising funds that branded him as a sellout too many. This is a fascinating documentary, exceptionally well-placed and able to provide the details of the controversy in such a fashion as to grab and hold the attention of the audience.