Ancient Mastodon Skull From Texas Gravel Pit, 26 Pound Mexican Gold Nugget in Auction

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The largest gold nugget ever found in the Western Hemisphere, the fabled "Boot of Cortez," and the world's largest mastodon skull, the "Lone Star" mastodon found in a Southeast Texas gravel pit, are among the highlights of the inaugural natural history auction to be conducted in Dallas and online by Heritage Auction Galleries on January 20, 2008.

The world's largest prehistoric mastodon skull, painstakingly excavated from a Southeast Texas gravel pit after its discovery in 2004, is expected to sell for more than $100,000 in a public auction of fossils, gems and other natural history items in Dallas on January 20. The auction also includes a huge, 26 pound gold nugget found in Mexico that's valued at over $1 million and a rare, 22 pound meteorite that fell in China.

"This is the only mastodon skull ever found in Texas, so it's only appropriate that it be the biggest and the best. It's known as the 'Lone Star' mastodon skull, and it's about 14 percent larger than its nearest rival in size," said David Herskowitz, Director of Natural History for Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas (http://www.HA.com), the company that will conduct the auction in Dallas and online.

"It was found covered in granite-hard sandstone in a gravel pit in La Grange, Texas. It took over a year and a half to carefully extract it, a few square inches a day. The tusked skull is more than three feet long and about three feet wide, and from a nearly ten-foot tall bull that died over 10,000 years ago."

The upcoming auction also includes the fabled 'Boot of Cortez," a nearly foot long gold nugget that weighs 389.4 ounces, more than 26 pounds. It's the largest surviving gold nugget ever discovered in the Western hemisphere, and is expected to sell for more than $1 million.

"It was found in the Sonora Desert near Caborca, Mexico in 1989 by a local man using a metal detector he'd just bought at Radio Shack. It was prominently displayed last year in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and has been described as the most unusual and attractive large gold nugget in the world," said Herskowitz.

Other highlights of the auction include a rare 22-pound pallasite meteorite that fell to Earth near Fukang, China in 2000 that is valued at about $150,000, and the remains of a complete, 3½ inch fossilized lizard preserved for over 30 million years with a half dozen insects in prehistoric amber. Discovered in the Dominican Republic, it's the largest complete animal ever discovered in amber, and has a pre-sale estimate of $120,000 or more, according to Heritage.

For additional information, contact Heritage Auction Galleries, (800) 872-6467, or online at http://www.HA.com.

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