Turkey Converts Historic Church Building into Mosque

The Turkish Council of State has approved the conversion of a historic Greek Orthodox Church into a place of Islamic worship.

The Byzantine-era “Chora” Church was originally built in the early 4th century as a monastery complex outside the walls of Constantinople. It was later converted to a mosque after the Ottoman invasion of Istanbul.

In 1945, the church was restored and preserved as the “Kariye Museum.” Despite its conversion back to a symbol of Christianity, a lawsuit was later filed by the Association of Permanent Foundations and Service to Historical Artifacts and Environment claiming that the building was a mosque and thus belonged to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Foundation.

The recent decision by the Council of State backs this belief and clears the way for the building to be converted into a functioning mosque, according to International Christian Concern.

“The Kariye mosque… is one of the public immovables belonging to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Foundation,” the council said in a statement, reports the Greek City Times.


Princeton University describes more about the church’s storied history and religious significance:

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“Described by Osterhaut as ‘second in renown only to Hagia Sophia among the Byzantine churches of Istanbul’, Kariye Camii [Mosque] attracts much attention because of its rich mosaics and frescoes. The original structure was built by the Holy Theodus in 534 in the reign of Justinian. In the 11th and 12th centuries, it was rebuilt by the Comnenus family and dedicated to Christ (thus the name, Christ in Chora). The structure suffered the great earthquake of 1296 and was later converted into a mosque in 1511 after the Turks conquered Istanbul. Since 1948, the building has been the Kariye Museum, a popular tourist attraction.”

In March of this year, Turkish President Recep Erdogan declared that the iconic Hagia Sophia cathedral, which is also being preserved as a museum transformed into a place of Islamic worship.

“As you know, the mosque was converted to a museum in 1935, as a reflection of the (Republican People’s Party) CHP mentality. We may as well take a step and change that,” Erdogan was quoted as saying, according to the Greek Reporter, prompting outrage from the Christian community.

Many believe that this latest announcement will speed up the process of converting the Hagia Sophia to a full-fledged mosque.


Historian Dr. Vassilios Meichanetsidis told the Greek Times that the mosque conversions are “a sign of Islamic conquest and supremacy” that have their roots in the Ottoman period and the brutal islamization of the region.

“It was widely practised in the times of conquest and throughout the Ottoman period and thus most of the truly superb Byzantine churches were converted into mosques and suffered serious damages,” assilios added.

“In many ways, the conversions of churches into mosques or museums area part of a genocidal process in which a physical genocide of human beings (Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians/Arameans) has turned into a cultural genocide.”

Offering her analysis of the situation to Faithwire, International Christian Concern’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, Claire Evans said:

“When reading the New Testament, it is apparent that the history of the Church is built upon the soil of Turkey. The country was first Christian, but the invasion of the Ottomans was followed by the steady erasure of this land’s Christian history. Although modern-day Turkey is constitutionally secular, the current political environment is increasingly Islamic.

The environment reinforces the belief that Christianity is a foreign religion to Turkey, and thus a threat to the nation. Indeed, President Erdogan has built his base around concepts that polarize and deepens an “us versus them” mentality. Historic churches prove a difficult concept for Turkey; many do not realize that their country was first Christian, and that Islam is actually the foreign religion. Turning historic churches, now functioning as museums, into mosques scores political points for a government that finds its identity in the country’s Ottoman history.


The post Turkey Converts Historic Church Building into Mosque appeared first on Believers Portal.

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Gordon Sondland, hotelier turned diplomat, wasn’t always a Trump supporter

Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, finds himself in the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry after the State Department blocked him from appearing before three congressional committees on Tuesday.

Sondland has been a player in Republican politics for a number of years but wasn’t always a Trump supporter.
Sondland was previously the founder and CEO of the Provenance Hotels chain, which boasts 19 hotels across the country.
Sondland was confirmed to the ambassador role on June 29, 2018.

A frequent donor to the GOP

During the 2016 election, Sondland donated to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and to the former Florida governor’s Super PAC, FEC filings show. After Trump locked up the nomination, Sondland, a frequent donor to the Republican National Committee, joined Trump and the RNC’s joint finance operation.
George W. Bush
However, after Trump attacked a Gold Star family, Sondland sought to distance himself from Trump after The Seattle Times obtained an invitation to a August fundraiser for Trump that showed Sondland listed as an event sponsor.
A spokeswoman for Sondland said at the time that he would not be hosting or attending any Seattle or Portland fundraisers for the Trump campaign, Willamette Week reported.
“Mr. Trump’s statements have made it clear that his positions do not align with” his personal beliefs and values, Provenance Hotels spokeswoman Kate Buska told the Portland newspaper.
“Historically, Mr. Sondland has been supportive of the Republican party’s nominees for President,” she added. “However, in light of Mr. Trump’s treatment of the Khan family and the fact his constantly evolving positions diverge from their personal beliefs and values on so many levels, neither Mr. Sondland or Mr. Wali can support his candidacy.”
After the election, Sondland donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee through four limited liability companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Although the bulk of his donations have been to GOP candidates, he gave over $5,000 to Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s reelection campaign in 2015, according to FEC filings.
Wyden had vouched for Sondland during his confirmation hearing in 2018, saying he knew the hotelier for a quarter century by way of Oregon’s “really small Jewish community.”
He also touted Sondland’s contributions to the Oregon community, including a $1 million endowment to the Portland Art Museum, where he served as its chairman from 2009 to 2011, to allow free admission for children.

Limited prior work in government

Sondland is a first generation American of refugee parents, who fled Nazi Germany and eventually settled in Seattle, Washington.
Before he took on the diplomat role, Sondland’s work in government had been limited. He was appointed by George W. Bush to serve on the Commission for White House Fellowships.
He had worked on the transition team for Oregon Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who was governor from 2003 to 2011. Sondland also worked as a principal Republican liaison for Oregon and the White House. He also chaired the governor’s Office of Film and Television.
While he is ambassador to the European Union, he has stated that he has a specific interest in Ukraine.
“President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being the US ambassador to the EU, but he’s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine,” he told a Ukraine media outlet in July.
Sondland was set to be on the hot seat Tuesday as House investigators pressed him about text messages he exchanged related to Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky and the freezing of foreign aid to Ukraine.
In text messages released last week by the former US special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, Sondland told a US diplomat concerned over the withhold of funding in exchange for an investigation that he is mistaken about Trump’s intentions.
But on Tuesday morning, the State Department ordered Sondland not to appear before Congress.
“He is a sitting ambassador and employee of State and is required to follow their direction,” Sondland’s attorney Robert Luskin said.

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‘The works represent a new era’: behind the Met’s bold new sculptures

Kenyan American Wangechi Mutu has become the first artist to fill Metropolitan Museum of Arts alcoves with four eye-catching female sculptures

If youre standing outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, theres one small detail thats often overlooked in the buildings grand architecture: the four alcoves that crown its entranceway.

These alcoves have been left empty since the museum was built over a century ago, but thats about to change.

Kenyan American Wangechi Mutu has become the first artist to fill them with four bronze sculptures for a project called The NewOnes, will free Us, which is on view until 12 January.

The sculptures of women here look like confident African queens, staring ahead. One is bald, while another has a lip plate. Theyre all draped in spaghettilike garments, while some have pointed fingers, like celestial beings.

They draw from the artists research in women and power, especially African traditions with adornments that if a woman is wealthy or high ranking, she wears heavier and larger objects.

What do high ranking women in leadership, and leadership women who have wisdom, wear? asks Mutu. I took from these traditions and have elongated, accentuated or heightened them in certain ways so they look and feel like the women who are leaders of that society.

Photograph: Courtesy of the Artist and Gladstone Gallery

The symbolism here is more than just decorative. They wear adornments and incredible objects and jewelry with pride because they mean so much, she says. You can pull and push the body to read in specific ways that describe the role youre playing in that society.

Lip plates are a custom tradition with tribes in Africa, South America and North America, where clay or wooden plates are worn in a pierced hole in the upper or lower lip.

When these women wear lip plates, theyre wearing facial instruments that heighten them, that make them standout like a crown or a helmet, says Mutu. These women are walking museums; theyre living archives of entire communities and cultures. This isnt tattooing or trendy ear piercing or ear stretching business. This is the business of history carrying.

Wangechi Mutu. Photograph: Photo by Eileen Travell

Theyre that much more beautiful, strong and powerful, resilient and capable of stretching their lips, arms and necks, so it has much different resonance to wear this adornment in this culture, she adds.

This new work also fights against the tradition of caryatids, where the female form is used as part of columns in Greek architecture, holding the weight of rooftops on their heads and hands. This age-old symbolism is apt for the contemporary woman, too.

It ties into the idea of the caryatids, and how the female figure is often carrying other people or some big weight, explains Mutu, citing motherhood, family and day jobs contribute to a womans work. That has always been a representative of how women move through the world they work more than theyre recognized and compensated for.

Mutus sculptures show four women sitting in a relaxed position. Remove this obscene weight off these women, have them seated with their arms and hands empty, without the weight and the load-bearing responsibility of their arms, she says.

She shows the women independent from the weight of men, too. Release these women from their strenuous responsibilities and give them the respect that they are owed, says Mutu.

The Mets commission is also part of a larger shift in the US. The Natural History Museum is re-examining their Theodore Roosevelt statue, which some think should be torn down, as Roosevelt was racist towards Native Americans and African Americans. The museum has added a video and website called Addressing the Statue, which hopes to welcome dialogue, rather than cover up the past.

Photograph: Courtesy of the Artist and Gladstone Gallery

Another initiative is a public arts campaign called She Built NYC, which is working on getting more female monuments up in a city which has 150 statues of men, but only a handful of women (a statue honoring Shirley Chisholm will soon be raised).

I believe that there are moments where the writers of history cannot see their own mistakes and misconceptions, their biases, says Mutu. Youre living within your time. They must have seemed like heroes and must have ignored the things they did that were unjust.

Mutus artwork at the Met looks to the future. The works represent a new era, she says. Im always looking to tell the truth and persuade humanity to look forward and see our way through all the complicated political ineptitude and human misery we have put ourselves in.

I have an enormous amount of hope, she adds, but I know it needs to address the injustice of misinformation.

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Incredible Fossils Shed Light On Mysterious Sharks That Lived 360 Million Years Ago

During the Devonian era, mysterious sharks with bizarre teeth and sinuous bodies swam the seas. Until now, we’ve only known about them from teeth and fin spines, but researchers have finally uncovered skeletal remains in Morocco, shedding light on what these strange toothy fishes were like.

Describing their finds in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers uncovered near-complete skeletal remains, including several skulls, from two different species belonging to the genus Phoebodus. Shark skeletons are notoriously tricky to stumble upon because they are made out of cartilage, not bone.

“It is hard to find shark skeletons of this completeness and quality because they are made out of cartilage,” first author Linda Frey, of the Palaeontologocial Institute and Museum at the University of Zurich, told IFLScience. “Cartilage is not that robust such as bone and therefore, it is less often preserved. For this reason, we were overwhelmed by making such a discovery.

“Although the shark Phoebodus was known from plenty of teeth material for decades, skeletons were completely absent before our recent discoveries.” Cartilaginous fish are known as Chondrichthyes and include sharks, skates, and rays.

The new remains were found in the Maïder region of Morocco, an area known for its Drotops trilobite fossils. Once a shallow sea, the sharks lived there during the Late Devonian, a period spanning 376 to 360 million years ago that preceded the Carboniferous period. Poor water circulation would have helped to preserve the sharks’ bodies by creating a low-oxygen environment.

One of the most notable features of this group of sharks hinted at by the remains is that they had anguilliform – or eel-like – bodies, in addition to a long jaw and nose. The physical characteristics of the genus suggest it is closely related to a species of elasmobranch called Thrinacodus gracia, discovered in limestone in Montana, that lived during the Carboniferous era.

Christian Klug
a) reconstruction of a Phoebodus shark b) reconstruction of T. gracia c) image of a frilled shark. Linda Frey and Christian Klug, Paläontologisches Institut und Museum, University of Zurich

The researchers note that Phoebodus is reminiscent of another shark, but less in terms of relatedness and more in terms of looks. The frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) is a living species of shark found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A strange creature, it has an eel-like body and slightly horror-film-esque teeth arranged in neatly separated rows, each with three sharp spikes.

The bizarre frilled shark. 

Well-known sharks like the great white chomp up their prey, but frilled sharks use a different approach. Their unique sets of teeth allow them to grab onto prey and then swallow it whole, with inward-pointing gnashers preventing any unlucky fish that finds its way into the shark’s mouth from escaping.

CT scans of the new fossils suggest that Phoebodus may have fed in a similar way to frilled sharks as both their teeth and body shapes are remarkably similar. The team also thinks that Phoebodus’ feeding technique may share similarities with that of the alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula), one of the biggest freshwater fishes in North America, which has a long, flat, almost crocodilian snout that helps it grab fish that appear at its side.

first author
A rather sweet-looking alligator gar. Wikimedia Commons

New finds might tell us more about the physiology and behavior of ancient Phoebodus sharks, but for now, we have the most complete skeleton of one of these marine beasts ever uncovered, and that’s pretty awesome.

[H/T: NatGeo]

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Ground Zero Memorial and Rebuilding Fast Facts


(CNN)Here’s a look at the rebuilding of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan and the memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks.

April 28, 2003 – The World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition launches.
June 2003 – The Memorial Competition submission period closes. 5,201 submissions are received from 63 nations.
    November 19, 2003 – Eight prospective plans chosen from the submissions are displayed for the public in the World Financial Center in New York.
    January 6, 2004 – The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announces its choice of “Reflecting Absence” by Israeli-born architect Michael Arad.
    September 10, 2005 – Supporters of the Take Back the Memorial campaign protest the inclusion of an International Freedom Center in plans for the memorial.
    September 28, 2005 – In a written statement, Governor George Pataki announces that plans for the International Freedom Center adjacent to the planned memorial at the World Trade Center site have been abandoned.
    July 12, 2011 – More than 42,000 passes to the memorial are reserved in the first 24 hours they are made available.
    September 11, 2011 – The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the dedication of the memorial.
    September 12, 2011 – The memorial opens to the public.
    2012 – A dispute between the Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey delays construction of the 9/11 museum planned for the memorial site. The museum was originally supposed to open on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
    September 10, 2012 – The budgetary dispute delaying the opening of the museum is resolved when all parties enter into a “memorandum of understanding,” an agreement that allows them to restart construction.
    May 15, 2014 – The National September 11 Memorial & Museum opens its doors for the 9/11 community — survivors, families and rescuers. Within it are 12,500 objects, 1,995 oral histories and 580 hours of film and video.
    May 21, 2014 – The museum opens to the public.
    Redevelopment of Lower Manhattan:
    Fall 2001 – New York Governor George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani create the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). The mission of the LMDC is to “help plan and coordinate the rebuilding and revitalization of Lower Manhattan.”
    The LMDC also administers the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition, a separate process from that of rebuilding the World Trade Center area.
    A 15-member board of directors governs the LMDC. The governor of New York and the mayor of New York City each appoint half of the members. The LMDC is also assisted by nine advisory councils.
    According to an audit conducted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the rebuilding cost grew from approximately $11 billion in 2008 to $14.8 billion in 2012.
    August 12, 2002 FEMA and the Federal Transit Administration announce $4.55 billion in federal aid for transportation improvements in Lower Manhattan.
    September 26, 2002 Six design teams are hired, out of 407 submissions, to create land use plans for the 16-acre site.
    December 18, 2002 An exhibit of nine possible designs opens at the World Financial Center.
    February 27, 2003 Daniel Libeskind’s “Memory Foundations” is selected as the new design for the site.
    September 17, 2003 The LMDC releases a revised Master Plan for the site.
    November 23 2003 – PATH train service is restored, linking Lower Manhattan and New Jersey. Trains operate out of a temporary station in the area.
    December 19, 2003 Plans for the Freedom Tower to be built at Ground Zero are revealed.
    January 22, 2004 – Architect Santiago Calatrava unveils his plans for the area transportation hub.
    July 4, 2004 Construction at Freedom Tower begins. A 20-ton slab of granite, inscribed “the enduring spirit of freedom,” is laid as the cornerstone of one of the new skyscrapers that will stand on the site.
    May 4, 2005 Governor Pataki calls for a redesign of the new tower for safety reasons.
    June 29, 2005 – New York officials release the latest design for the signature building at the site after revising it to make the tower more secure.
    September 6, 2005 Architect Santiago Calatrava and public officials dedicate the first steel rail for the future transportation station.
    December 15, 2005 Architect Lord Norman Foster agrees to design the next major building planned for the site. Foster will design a 65-story tower for the northeast corner of the 16-acre site.
    April 26, 2006 The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and developer Larry Silverstein reach an agreement about the financing of Freedom Tower, resolving problems that had delayed construction.
    April 27, 2006 The formal groundbreaking of Freedom Tower takes place.
    March 26, 2009 The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announces dropping the name “Freedom Tower,” and that the first commercial lease in the building has been signed. Upon completion, the building will be named One World Trade Center.
    May 10, 2013 Construction workers bolt the last pieces of a 408-foot spire into place atop One World Trade Center, bringing the building to a height of 1,776 feet. This height references the year the United States declared its independence. It also makes the building the tallest in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest in the world.
    November 3, 2014 – One World Trade Center opens for business, when the first tenant, Conde Nast, moves in.
    May 29, 2015 – The observatory opens in the top three floors of One World Trade Center.
      March 3, 2016 – The first phase of the World Trade Center transportation hub opens.
      June 29, 2016 – Liberty Park opens to the public.

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      New Species Of Moroccan Stegosaur Is The Oldest Confirmed Find

      A few vertebrae and an upper arm bone are all it has taken for palaeontologists at London’s Natural History Museum to announce a new species of stegosaur. Moreover, the discovery from the Middle Atlas Mountains in Morocco is the oldest example we’ve found of the dinosaurs famous for their spiny backs, replacing the Chinese Huayangosaurus taibaii.

      Dr Susannah Maidment determined the bones are consistent enough with other stegosaurs to be placed in the same suborder, but sufficiently different to require a new genus, leading her to name the find Adratiklit boulahfa. The genus name means “mountain lizard” in Berber, while the species refers to the location where the find was made.

      “The discovery of Adratiklit boulahfa is particularly exciting as we have dated it to the middle Jurassic. Most known stegosaurs date from far later in the Jurassic period, making this the oldest definite stegosaur described and helping to increase our understanding of the evolution of this group of dinosaurs,” Maidment said in a statement

      Besides its age, A. boulahfa is notable for being the first stegosaur found from North Africa. Stegosaurs have been found both in Southern Africa and across North America, Europe, and Asia (which made up the supercontinent Laurasia in the Jurassic), so it is not surprising to discover one in Morocco. On the other hand, the place the bones put A. boulahfa in the stegosaur family tree was less expected.

      “Despite being from the African continent our phylogenetic analysis indicated that, surprisingly, Adratiklit is more closely related to European stegosaurs than it is to the two genera known from southern Africa,” said University of Brighton PhD student Tom Raven, co-author with Maidment of the Gondwana Research paper describing the find. The paper names Dacentrurus and Miragaia as the European stegosaurs that most closely resemble Adratiklit.

      Fay Grant
      From this limited collection of vertebrae and an arm bone, palaeontologists have identified a new species and placed it in the stegosaur family tree. Fay Grant, © Trustees of the Natural History Museum

      Stegosaurs were one of the main groups of thyreophorans, or armored dinosaurs. They thrived throughout Laurasia in the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous, but few have been found in Gondwana. The paper proposes the relative absence of stegosaurs from the Gondwanan record does not reflect true scarcity, but a combination of limited sites suited to preserving them, and less excavation of those that exist. The fact A. boulahfa predates any known Laurasian stegosaur is evidence for this.

      “What is exciting about this is that there could be many more thyreophoran dinosaurs to find in places that until now have not been excavated,” Maidment added.

      As interesting and scientifically significant as this all is, the discovery sheds no light on the question that has puzzled dinosaur experts and the public alike: How did stegosaurs have sex without one getting impaled on the other’s sharp bits?

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      Swedish museum to return exhumed skulls of 25 Sami people

      Eleven institutions still have remains of indigenous people, taken for controversial research


      The skulls of 25 Sami people are to be reburied in the northern Swedish graveyard from which they were exhumed in the 1950s, in a ceremony acknowledging historic injustices suffered by the countrys indigenous community.

      The so-called repatriation ceremony, on Swedens indigenous peoples day, on 9 August, will involve the return of the remains to an ancient Sami burial ground, in Lycksele, from the Swedish history museum in Stockholm, where they were taken for research.

      This whole ceremony is about reconciling what has happened, restoring the destiny of these people, returning them to their place of rest, and helping all those relatives affected, Adriana Aurelius, the events organiser, told local media.

      The remains of indigenous Sami people, whose homeland covers large parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia, were routinely collected in Sweden through barter, excavations and grave robberies throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

      Many were used to test controversial scientific theories about the biological differences between races, including at Swedens notorious state institute for racial biology, in Uppsala, which carried out government-sponsored research into eugenics and forcibly sterilised thousands of Sami women.

      Despite a request in 2007 from the Sami parliament that all remains be returned, 11 Swedish state museums, universities and institutes are known to still retain some Sami bones and skulls in their collections, Mikael Jakobsson, the chair of the Sami parliaments ethics council, told TT news agency.

      Understanding of the issue has begun to improve, but so far it seems the museums have generally preferred to keep them, Jakobsson said. They have been seen as objects, not as the people they once were.

      The issue is particularly sensitive in the Sami community, partly because of beliefs about the dead but also because it echoes centuries of discrimination, repression and human rights violations, including forced conversion to Christianity and segregated schooling.

      Campaigners say a national government policy is urgently needed to deal with the issue, which cannot be left to the responsibility of individual museums or funded by Sami communities. The repatriation issue has been handled far more effectively in North America and in Australia, Jakobsson said.

      Swedens national heritage office is due to present a report on the issue next year, with recommendations for museums working with human remains. The government also established a truth and reconciliation commission this year to look at broader historic and ongoing abuses against the Sami people.

      We are politically prepared to address this issue now, said Helene berg, of the culture ministry. There is international criticism of how Sweden has worked with the repatriation question. We now intend to make good on our responsibility.

      Fridays ceremony, which involves the Swedish church, the Lycksele municipality, the local state museum and the Sami association, is the largest such repatriation operation, according to the national public radio station SR.

      Katherine Hauptman, the Swedish history museums director, told SR the museum had clearly failed, adding that when the skulls were discovered in storage they were sent to the Vsterbottens museum, in north-east Sweden, for return to Lycksele. The museum would apologise at the ceremony for how the remains had been treated, she said.

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      Perhaps the best dinosaur fossil ever discovered. So why has hardly anyone seen it?

      A Montana rancher found two skeletons in combat the Dueling Dinosaurs. But who do they belong to, and will the public ever see them?


      The early June morning in Montana was already very hot and dry by 7.30, when Clayton Phipps and his friend, Mark Eatman, set out to search for fossils. Phipps, a rancher who calls himself the Dino Cowboy, was wearing his trademark black felt Stetson cattleman hat.

      The two had gone bone collecting before, but they were joined on this day for the first time by Phippss cousin, Chad OConnor. The trio fanned out to hike through the badlands of what they thought was the Judith River Formation; later, they would learn they had actually been in an area called Hell Creek, a division of gray and ochre sandstone, shale and clay deposited about 66m years ago during the Late Cretaceous, when the area was a swampy floodplain.

      Phipps, like most locals, calls it the Hell Crik. Its one of the most storied dinosaur fossil sites in the world.

      At lunchtime, the group reconvened for roast beef sandwiches. Phipps asked Eatman if he had found anything. Yes, he said, a pelvis weathering out of a hill not a big deal, except this one appeared to have an articulated femur, potentially suggesting a rare level of completeness. They went to the site. Phipps could tell right away it was from a ceratopsian, a group of herbivorous, beaked dinosaurs. He brushed away some of the sand, and thought there might be more of the dinosaur buried in the hillside.

      But excavating it would have to wait for another day: he had 260 acres of hay to cut for cattle feed.

      Eatman went back to Billings, where he had gotten a job at a carpet store after a run of bad luck put an end to his 13-year career as a full-time fossil hunter. (His wife said: Were starving to death you gotta get a real job, Phipps recalls.)

      OConnor and Phipps headed home to Phippss ranch. We werent all that excited, he says. It was a pelvis in the ground at the bottom of a canyon that was really remote and no roads to it at all. We had no plans to go back, but Chad convinced us to. Im sure glad we did.

      The site in Montana is one of the most storied dinosaur fossil sites in the world. Photograph: Clayton Phillips

      Phipps and OConnor returned to the site about a month later, this time with Lige and Mary Ann Murray, ranchers who owned the land where the bones had been found. In the US, fossils found on private land belong to the landowner; prospectors simply need their permission to dig. The Murrays signed off, and Phipps and OConnor got to work. They built a road to the site. They began excavating the ceratopsian with penknives and brushes. Business partners were brought in; secret contracts were arranged. Eatman came to help when he could, along with a rotating cast of confidants.

      After two weeks, the body of the plant-eater had been revealed. It was more than a pelvis and femur it looked like a fairly complete skeleton of Triceratops horridus, which is the triceratops youre thinking of. One day, Phipps was behind the wheel of his uncles backhoe, scooping out soil from around the fossil so it could be removed. Carefully watching each dump of the bucket, at one point he noticed dark fragments among the light-colored sandstone.

      Bone chips.

      Oh no, he thought. He jumped down, combed through the sand, found the claw of a theropod. Theropods, like Tyrannosaurus rex, are three-toed carnivores. That doesnt match the plant-eater, Phipps thought. What is happening here?

      Phipps scrambled down into the quarry where he had been digging and brushed away more sand. A hand appeared. Then a leg. It was clear: there was another dinosaur in the outcrop.

      It was just surreal, Phelps remembers. Obviously, these two dinosaurs werent friends, so what were they doing in there together?

      Phipps had been hunting for dinosaur fossils since 1998, excavating and preparing them to sell at trade shows and to museums and private collectors. But he had never found anything like this. I think, he says, my hat went in the air that day.


      This was in 2006. Three months of intensive excavation followed, during which Phipps lost 15 pounds. In the end, he and his partners had a 28ft-long ceratopsian and a 22ft-long theropod in four multi-ton blocks. A little cowboy ingenuity, and we got em out of the hills, Phipps says.

      The number of people who have seen the fossils remains in the low double digits. Photograph: Peter Larson

      The meat-eater was either a juvenile T rex or its relative, Nanotyrannus lancensis, a rare dwarf species whose existence is disputed. Both dinosaurs were extraordinarily well-preserved, fully articulated, with envelopes of skin and, possibly, mummified internal organs.

      Best of all, they seemed to have died together, not washed into their grave separately. And they appeared to have been battling when they died: teeth were found in the spine and near the pelvis of the ceratopsian, and the theropods skull was split laterally, as if it had been kicked.

      Phipps dubbed them the Montana Dueling Dinosaurs. Theyre remarkable specimens, says Mark Norell, chairman of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. Especially the tyrannosaur it could go a long way toward resolving whether nanotyrannus was its own species.

      Thirteen years later, the number of people who have seen the fossils remains in the low double digits. Theyve still not been fully extracted from the rock matrix, cleaned, prepped, studied or put on display. Phipps isnt even at liberty to say where they are hell only reveal that theyre at an American museum, pending the resolution of Murray v BEJ Minerals LLC, which deals with who owns whats on top of the land versus whats beneath it.

      Dinosaurs bring drama, Phipps says, and being a cowboy, Im not a drama fan. You can have it.


      For years after unearthing the Dueling Dinosaurs, Phipps and his team tried every tactic they could think of to drum up interest for a sale. They set up a website, and a marketing campaign called the Paleo-Incident Project. They tried to get sponsors, like Dr Pepper, to fund further work on the fossils. They posted videos on YouTube, men in western wear standing around the fossil jackets, taking turns talking into microphones.

      They contacted natural history museums around the world, including the Smithsonian where the bones were offered for a reported $15m and the Museum of the Rockies, in Bozeman, Montana, whose then head paleontologist, Jack Horner (the inspiration for the character played by Sam Neill in Jurassic Park) told them they were scientifically useless.

      In order for a specimen to be of scientific use and publishable, we have to know its exact geographic position, its exact stratigraphic position, and the specimen must also be in the public trust, accessible for study, which this specimen is not, Horner says.

      The bones were offered to the Smithsonian for $15m. They didnt sell. Photograph: Peter Larson

      Phipps called Horners reaction sad, adding: If somebody in his position is telling the world that the best dinosaurs possibly ever discovered in the world are worthless, what donors gonna donate anything to paleontology?

      Acrimony between commercial and academic paleontologists is abundant. The haters are always gonna hate, Phipps says. No question about that.

      In the meantime, other valuable dinosaur fossils were found on the 27,000-acre Murray ranch, including a well-preserved triceratops skull and nearly complete adult T rex, which a Dutch museum purchased for several million dollars. The Dueling Dinosaurs themselves went to auction in 2013 at Bonhams in New York, but no bid met the reserve price of $6m.

      Though the fossils technically belonged to the Murrays, they ceded control of what to do with them to Phipps and his team via a contract, the details of which remain private. We have a pretty loose arrangement, to be real truthful, Mary Ann says. The deal specifies that any proceeds be split between the Murrays and Phipps; Phipps will then subdivide his percentage with his team, which includes the owners of CK Preparations, a commercial fossil services company, and Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, which has unearthed some of the most complete T rex specimens ever found.

      Larsons story is also one of loss. After the T rex known as Sue was discovered by Black Hills in 1990, a dispute arose over its legal ownership. Two years later, the bones were seized by the FBI and South Dakota national guard in a highly publicized case, and ownership was returned to the landowner, a Sioux rancher whose deed was held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He sold Sue at auction for a record $8.36m to the Field Museum in Chicago. Subsequently, Larson was sentenced to two years in federal prison on separate charges related to trafficking fossils, including failing to report to customs travelers checks and cash transported internationally, and illegally taking a fossil worth less than $100 from federal land.

      His experience with the legal morass around dinosaur fossils would prove useful later.


      Lige and Mary Ann Murray were young hired hands in 1983 when they began working for George Severson, a longtime Montana rancher. The Murrays had a good relationship with him and a few years later, near the end of his life, Severson sold them half of his ranch, leaving the rest to his sons, Jerry and Bo, who live outside the state.

      For 14 years, the Seversons and Murrays operated the ranch in amicable partnership. But in 2005, the Murrays purchased the other half of the land. Exactly why is unclear; the Seversons say Lige called to ask about buying them out, while Mary Ann says the Seversons approached them unexpectedly. An agreement was reached to split the estate: the Murrays would control all of the surface rights and one-third of the mineral rights, and the Seversons would retain the rest of the mineral rights.

      The following summer, the Dueling Dinosaurs were found.

      Lige and I knew nothing about fossils, Mary Ann Murray says. We just ran cows and farms, thats all we did.

      Last November, a court ruled that fossils on Montana state and private land could be considered minerals. Photograph: Peter Larson

      Fossils, undoubtedly, can be composed of minerals, but they have generally been recognized as belonging to the surface estate owner whom we normally think of as the landowner in cases where the estate is split. The Department of the Interior ruled in 1915 that fossil remains of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals are not mineral, after the Carnegie Museum of Natural History paleontologist Earl Douglass had tried to procure a huge deposit of dinosaur bones with a mining claim. (The site today is Dinosaur National Monument.) This imposed some semblance of order after the wild west days of fossil hunting, when rivalrous collectors like Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh would freely roam public lands, digging up fossils to sell to museums or wealthy collectors. It has been the precedent ever since.

      The Seversons say they didnt know the bones were worth much until 2013, when they were appraised between $7 and $9m before the auction. So they decided to assert a mineral rights claim after the Murrays refused to share any of the future proceeds. The following year, the Murrays filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the fossils were theirs because they owned the surface estate. A district court ruled in their favor, leading the Seversons to appeal to the US ninth circuit.

      In a test, last November that court ruled that fossils on Montana state and private land could be considered minerals. Once upon a time, in a place now known as Montana, dinosaurs roamed the land, begins Judge Eduardo Robrenos opinion. On a fateful day, some 66m years ago, two such creatures, a 22ft-long theropod and a 28ft-long ceratopsian, engaged in mortal combat. While history has not recorded the circumstances surrounding this encounter, the remnants of these Cretaceous species, interlocked in combat, became entombed under a pile of sandstone. That was then this is now.

      The decision sent shockwaves through the field of paleontology, jeopardizing as it did the status of any fossil found on private land in Montana. The Murrays filed for an en banc appeal, supported by an amicus curiae brief from paleontological institutions including the Field Museum, the Museum of the Rockies and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology which had opposed Larson in the Sue case.

      By reversing a widely accepted understanding of land rights, the brief states, the panel decision subjects scientifically important fossil collections to damaging ownership disputes and impedes future efforts of the paleontological community to discover, collect and study fossils.

      The state of Montana, meanwhile, unanimously passed legislation clarifying the definition of fossils and distinguishing them from minerals.

      En banc appeals are rarely granted, but in May the Murrays got good news: the ninth circuit, in the spirit of comity and federalism, vacated its decision and punted the case to the Montana supreme court, where it will be taken up later this year.

      Larson sees some similarities to the Sue case when people, through a lot of hard work, make a fantastic discovery, theres always somebody with their hand open but hes more optimistic about the outcome for the Dueling Dinosaurs. And while the Seversons, the Murrays and the commercial paleontologists disagree on much, they all claim to want the fossils to end up in a museum, where their immense scientific potential can be explored, and they can be put on display for people the undisputed inheritors of natural history.

      The question of who owns a fossil gets slippier the further back one goes. Before the Murrays or Seversons ever set foot in Montana, it was Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow and Blackfoot territory. The oldest dated human burial site in North America is near present-day Wilsall, Montana. For millions of years before that, the uplift of the Laramide orogeny, which created the Rocky Mountains in the west, was depositing thousands of feet of sediment in what is now eastern Montana, creating the rare conditions needed to fossilize the remains of the terrible lizards that had roamed that land long before, for humans to later find and fight over.

      But that was then. This is now.

      To get it down in cowboy terms, Im getting an education in our justice system I never wanted to pay for, Phipps says. Im in my 40s and Id never needed an attorney until this. I try to live my life to avoid em.

      This article was amended on 17 July 2019. The Museum of the Rockies is located in Bozeman, Montana, not Billings as stated in an earlier version.

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      World’s largest frogs can move rocks half their weight

      news The Goliath frog belongs to the largest known frog species in the world.(Credit: M. Schäfer/Frogs & Friends e.V.)

      The world’s largest frogs may also have the best pollywog daycare on the market. To protect its wee tadpoles, these enormous amphibians build their own “nursery ponds,” sometimes moving rocks more than half their weight to do so, and then guarding the pond to ensure the next generation’s survival, a new study details.

      The finding marks the first time scientists have described the Goliath frog’s(Conraua goliath) unique nest-building and parenting tactics. However, local frog hunters in Cameroon have known about it for years, and they were the first to tell the researchers about the frogs’ parental dedication.

      In fact, the researchers were studying something completely different (they were studying the diet of Goliath tadpoles) when “we heard about the breeding behavior of the Goliaths and decided to investigate if it [were] true or not,” said study senior researcher Mark-Oliver Rödel, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum in Berlin. [15 of the Largest Animals of Their Kind on Earth]

      The 7.3-lb. (3.3 kilograms) Goliath frog is native to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. To learn more about its nesting quirks, the scientists spent part of spring 2018 searching a 1,300-foot (400 meters) section of the Mpoula River in western Cameroon. They also interviewed four frog hunters and two villagers who lived near the river to learn more about C. goliath’s habits.

      In all, the scientists found 22 breeding sites, 14 of which had almost 3,000 eggs apiece. The team even set up a time-lapse video at one nest, which showed a Goliath guarding the nest at night.

      These frogs are creative builders, constructing three different types of nests, the researchers found. One type, the rock-pool nest, was built on larger rocks within the river, meaning that “frogs were using pre-existing structures for breeding,” the researchers wrote in the study.

      For the second type, frogs used naturally existing shallow pools near the river as nests. It appeared that the frogs had enlarged these pools, the researchers noticed, in essence turning a cottage into a McMansion. For the third type, the frogs dug small ponds, surrounding them with large stones, some weighing up to 4.4 lbs. (2 kg).

      Impressively, none of these nests had debris in them, suggesting that the frogs also acted as housekeepers, keeping the ponds clean for their tadpoles. “We have never observed them directly, but from indirect evidence, it is apparent that they push out material (e.g. leaves, pebbles) from natural ponds or push away larger and smaller stones to create their ‘own’ ponds,” Rödel told Live Science in an email.

      It’s likely that the male frogs, which are more than 1.1 feet (34 centimeters) long, use “their huge and very muscular hind legs” to move the stones, he added.

      While the researchers never directly witnessed a Goliath frog digging a nest, “the most detailed description we got (from one frog hunter) was that the male would construct the nest while the female waits in proximity,” the scientists wrote in the study. “Once the nest is finished, the male whistles to attract the female, which then is grasped by the male and eggs are deposited. Afterwards, the female would guard the nest and subsequently open the nest towards the river.”

      Is daycare worth the cost?

      The frogs invest a substantial amount of energy into nest-building, cleaning and guarding. But is it worth it? If their tadpoles survive, it absolutely is, but it appears each nest has benefits and challenges, the researchers found. Nests within a riverbed can flood from heavy rains, allowing predators such as shrimp and fish to get inside and devour the tadpoles, said Rödel, who is also the president of Frogs & Friends, the nongovernmental organization that co-funded the research. [So Tiny! Miniature Frog Species Are Among World’s Smallest (Photos)]

      Digging a pond alongside the river would sidestep these predators, but if it doesn’t rain for a spell, the pond could dry up, killing the tadpoles. “Thus, each of the three nest types has advantages and disadvantages, and the frogs need to choose what is best at a certain time,” Rödel said.

      Goliath frogs aren’t the only amphibian superparents out there. The gladiator frog (Hypsiboas rosenbergi) in South America builds nests for its young, while the male African bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) guards tadpoles and digs channels up to 40 feet (12 m) long to allow tadpoles to escape from drying pools, the researchers noted. However, Goliath is the only known African frog to build nesting ponds, the researchers said.

      Unfortunately, the Goliath frog is endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, largely because of habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, disease and hunting. (The frogs are considered a luxury food and are often served at weddings, Rödel said.)

      It would be a shame to lose these creatures without fully understanding them, he said. “The reason why we wanted (and actually did) study the tadpoles, was that we needed to know more about the biology of the species, just to make sure we know what to do in case a captive breeding program might be the last chance for the Goliaths’ survival in the future.”

      The study was published online Friday (Aug. 9) in the Journal of Natural History.

      Originally published on Live Science.

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