The Ultimate Conversation Piece
from the book, "Petrified Lightning"

Petrified Lightning

The Ultimate Conversation Piece

About 70 million years ago, a pregnant Hypselosaurus positioned herself to deposit her eggs in the nest she had built to house her future family. As she laid her brood one at a time, her 40—foot body shuddered each time an egg dropped into the nest. How many eggs she laid or whether any of them actually hatched into infant hypselosaurs will never be known. What is known is that one of the eggs did not hatch. It remained intact, with an encased embryo that probably died shortly after the egg was laid.

The egg was able to escape scavengers and agents of decomposition, so it had probably been covered with mud and buried, immediately and permanently. Groundwater that carried chemicals in solution gradually replaced all of the organic material of the egg with inorganic substances, mostly silica, so the egg became petrified. In 1930, when the intact egg was unearthed by a farmer as he plowed his vineyard in Aix—en—Provence, it created quite a stir.

This area of southern France was famous for its yield of dinosaur remains. Many shell fragments had been found in this locale as early as 1869. The discovery of a fossil egg in such good condition helped to confirm that the earlier fragments, along with the egg itself, were indeed from a hypselosaur. The only apparent damage that time had inflicted on the egg was that the shell contained many cracks. Otherwise it was a solid chunk of rock that had once been a dinosaur egg of the genus Hypselosaurus.

Such an old fossil in excellent condition is only half the story. In 1992 the prestigious Christie's of London auctioned the fossil egg unearthed in southern France. Never had there been such an unusual sale. The egg went to an anonymous buyer for the incredible bid of $11,000. Asked why anyone would pay so much for an unhandsome, useless trinket, the spokesman for the new owner explained that the egg was purchased for the sheer novelty of owning it: people who see it would react with astonishment at the very idea of a 70—million—year—old egg.

Somehow, an egg that old, one that could contain five and a half pints of liquid, would seem a bargain at any price.