This poem tells the story of the Maxberg Specimen of Archaeopteryx
, the most mysterious of all fossils of this animal. Discovered in 1956, it was the first specimen of Archaeopteryx
to be discovered after the famous Berlin specimen found in 1876. Its owner, Eduard Opitsch, considered it too valuable to give away and couldn't agree on a price to sell it, although he allowed it to be studied by paleontologists and displayed in a museum until 1974. The announcement of the much-better preserved Eichstätt specimen in 1973 seemed to have an embittering effect on Opitsch, and the following year he demanded his fossil back from the museum, and kept it at his house in Pappenheim from that point onward. For the last decade or so of his life, he refused to let anyone else see the fossil at all.
When Opitsch died at the age of 91 in February 1991, the Maxberg specimen wasn't found anywhere in his house, or any other possible place he might have left it. To this day, nobody knows what happened to it. Most paleontologists think it still exists somewhere, but it may be a long time before anyone sees it again.
I'd been intending to write something about the Maxberg Specimen for a long time, and was originally intending for it to be a comic. I've recently been looking into possibly getting a collection of my poetry published somewhere, though, and I think a poem has a better chance of eventually being published than a comic does. This poem also replaces Ned the Creationist
as the longest poem I've written. Even though Ned the Creationist always been one of my most popular poems, I think think this poem is better than that one both thematically and technically, and is more deserving of the length distinction.
Preview image is a creative commons image by H. Raab