Thursday, November 29, 2007


Here is a protest story like none I've run into before.

Armed with only tractors and farm tools, Chinese peasants recently attacked police who had come to seize dinosaur bones the farmers had found.

To be honest, I'm no so sure how recent this took place, but does it really matter?

After the big dinosaur bones were discovered in March 2006 by the peasants, the government told the farmers to hand over any rare and valuable fossils they had already hidden away.

Irate residents responded by forming a "dinosaur fossil protection team" that took money donations and organized a patrol against officials who tried to enter the village in this poor, often restless farm region.

"If government staff were discovered approaching the village, they would let off two blasts as a signal to swiftly call all the residents to the village entrance," the report said.

National Geographic reports the rebellion also set in motion the first court test of a 2006 Chinese law banning "unauthorized" excavation, possession, sale, and export of dinosaur fossils. Seven defendants—peasants from Shaping village in central Henan Province—are accused of forcibly resisting government orders to hand over a cache of hundred-million-year-old dinosaur bones they discovered.

Offenders like these dino-criminals are subject to lengthy prison terms or, in serious cases, the death penalty.

The death penalty for digging up bones. Whoa, hold on their comrades. Seems a bit much to me.

Many paleontologists worldwide probably are sympathetic to the Chinese government. They argue fossil sites that have survived for hundreds of millions of years are threatened by weathering,the enthusiasm of tourists, and smugglers like those the Chinese peasants feed into.

Richard Lane, a program officer at the National Science Foundation near Washington DC says that important dinosaur egg sites are being wiped out by Chinese peasants who hoe out eggs and sell them, encouraged by traders who smuggle the fossils out to collectors in the West.

But the death penalty for trying to make a living?

And, of course, there is more to the real story then dinosaur eggs. The Shaping villagers who staged the high-risk protests to protect their horde of dinosaur fossils are likely part of a trend toward increased resistance to state laws perceived as unjust. Like here in the USA the common people have little chance when up against their government...unless...perhcance they band together.

The following was taken from Environmental Graffiti.

Chinese Villagers Battle Police Over Hoard of Fossils

Chinese peasants fought a pitched battle against police, using their tractors and farm equipment as weapons, over a cache of dinosaur fossils the villagers were intending to sell on the black market.

China is the site of several of the world’s most productive fossil sites, and the fossils are often seen as a key to riches for the poor villagers who find them. Seven residents of Shaping village in China’s Henan Province were arrested after the police attack and immediately charged with obstructing justice. The group may also be the first to be tried under a 2006 Chinese law on illegal excavation and sale of fossils. The seven are accused of organizing a “Dinosaur Protection Squad” to prevent government seizure of the fossils.

Shaping is a hotbed of fossil discovery. Many of the residents have actually donated found fossils to scientists, but there is a significant portion hell-bent on escaping poverty through the ancient bones. China offered no compensation to the Shaping residents for the dinosaur bones they were holding, a fact which angered many of the villagers. The black market in dinosaur fossils is both thriving and profitable. Last year a rare fossilized dino egg nest, reportedly found in China and smuggled out of the country, sold at auction in L.A. for over $420,000.

This is not even the first time Shaping villagers have garnered international attention for a fossil based business. Last year, scientists determined that a “dragon bone” health tonic the villagers were making was in fact composed of ground up fossils. A kilo of the “dragon bones” went for a whopping 50 cents per kilo, or less than 25 cents a pound. The traditional medicine has been common for centuries in China, and is used in treating such illnesses as bone fractures, dizziness, and cramps. So far, the scientific evidence is still missing on the effectiveness of dinosaur based homeopathic bone fracture/cramp/dizziness cures.

Famous Chinese palaeontologist Xu Xing, who discovered the winged microraptor gui dinosaur, had much to say on the subject. Xu, who works out of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, said that many of the farmers in the area of his discovery have done some amateur excavations of their own. He said: “If all of the peasants who have engaged in unapproved dinosaur excavations were caught, tried and jailed, China would not have enough prisons to hold them all.” Xu believes the best course of action would be for the government to offer rewards for people who turn in fossils, rather than merely punishing those who don’t.

The Chinese government recovered the majority of the fossils in question.

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