We’re in the midst of reading our pal Ulrich Boser’s book The Gardner Theft, which has taught us a heckuva lot about the art-crime world. One of the tome’s essential lessons is that 99.99 percent of art thieves are not experts, a la Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment. They instead tend to be lunkhead robbers who target paintings, statues, and fossils because such items are rarely well-guarded. Alas, this means the crooks usually have no idea how to care for the goodies they swipe—and, in many instances, no idea how to convert them into cash money.
These facts disturb in light of the recent theft of an entire cave-bear skeleton from the Orlovaca cave museum near Sarajevo. We reckon the thieves didn’t realize how fragile the bones are, nor how priceless—it is the second-largest cave-bear skeleton in the world, dating back some 16,000 years. Even if the fragile specimen survives the rough handling, it’ll be tough to fence at the local pawn shop. There is, however, something of a market for cave-bear bone fragments, so perhaps the thieves will be forced to go the destructive route in order to turn a profit. And paleontology will be much the poorer for their avarice.