Carnegie Museum of Natural History

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Kathleen Bodenlos
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
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December 14, 2015


Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History Attends Repatriation Ceremony

Eric Dorfman, Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, attended a repatriation ceremony in Washington, D.C. on December 10, 2015, where a microraptor fossil was returned to the Chinese government by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Immediately following the ceremony, Dr. Dorfman and Mr. Zhang Zhijun, Deputy Chief of the Department of Stratigraphy and Paleontology for the Geological Museum of China, signed an agreement formalizing a plan to lend the fossil to Carnegie Museum of Natural History for an upcoming exhibit. The exhibit will focus on the illegal trade of natural history artifacts.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History became involved in the repatriation after U.S. Investigations from the Department of Homeland Security reached out to Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Matthew Lamanna, PhD. The paleontologist identified the fossil and confirmed that it belonged to China.

“We were able to say, ‘Yes, this is definitely from China’ and that’s [due to] the level of expertise in our curatorial team. We are very excited that this knowledge is being put to real world, practical use,” said Dr. Dorfman in an interview following the repatriation ceremony.

The microraptor fossil is estimated to be approximately 120 million years old and from the Liaoning Province in China. In addition to the fossil, 22 Chinese cultural artifacts were also repatriated. Among these artifacts were jade disks, bronze trays, and a pottery figurine, dating back as far as 1600 BCE.

The fossil was loaned as a symbol of China-U.S. cooperation on import restrictions of archaeological materials. Ever since the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on these import restrictions in 2009, 24 Chinese cultural institutions and organizations have collaborated with U.S. institutions and have consequentially held more than 30 cultural relics exhibitions throughout the U.S.

“The U.S. government has demonstrated a responsible attitude for implementing international treaties and honoring bilateral commitments. The return of the 22 missing Chinese artifacts is the most convincing example in this regard.” said Gu Yucai, China’s Deputy Director General of State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

The artifacts were recovered in federal investigations by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in New York, Cleveland, and Miami.

HSI plays a leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property, as well as the illegal trafficking of artwork, specializing in recovering works that have been reported lost or stolen.


Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top six natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website,