US Customs officials turned over to China fossils dating from as early as 100 million years ago that included bones of a saber-toothed cat, a partial skull of a dinosaur called a Psittacosaurus lujiatunesis and eggs of several other dinosaurs.
The undocumented relics had been shipped in two loads and were confiscated by customs agents in Chicago, Illinois, and Richmond, Virginia, the Homeland Security Department said.
A department announcement said the fossils were found during routine inspection of arriving cargoes. Some are suspected of being intentionally brought in in violation of US import laws, the department said.
John Morton, an assistant secretary of Homeland Security, said “the attempt to remove them from China ran up against a network of national and international customs laws that are in place to protect against the theft of cultural property. We are pleased to return them to their rightful owners, the people of China.”
Experts at Chicago’s Field Museum said the dinosaur fossils confiscated there date from 100 million years ago. Psittacosaurus was a small, two-legged dinosaur, less than six feet long, with a distinctive skull that had a prominent parrot-like beak and high nostrils.
The 24 fossilized dinosaur eggs were authenticated by experts from the Virginia Museum of Natural History to date from about 60 million years ago.