Speed Reads

Not his national treasure

Mongolian government to Nicolas Cage: Give back that $276,000 dinosaur skull

Back in 2007, actor Nicolas Cage reportedly outbid Leonardo DiCaprio at Beverly Hills' I.M. Chait Gallery to take home a Tyrannosaurus bataar skull for $276,000. After years of enjoying the luxury of having a rare dinosaur skull in his possession, however, Cage is now being asked to give it back.

The skull, the Department of Homeland Security says, was illegally smuggled from Mongolia. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has issued a civil forfeiture complaint asking for the skull's return to the country, and Cage has agreed to comply.

While Mongolia certainly wants its national treasure back, Cage has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Mongolia instead suspects one particular convicted paleontologist, Eric Prokpi, of smuggling several artifacts out of the Gobi desert.

The Tyrannosaurus bataar skull, which comes from a 70-million-year-old carnivorous dinosaur related to the Tyrannosaurus rex, has only been found in Mongolia, where the exportation of dinosaur fossils has been criminalized since 1924.

The gallery has also not been accused of any wrongdoing.