The Gobi is in many ways like the old American West, filled with abandoned hamlets and buildings, traces of disappeared peoples. Across its oceanic blond grass, horses and the black silhouettes of camels move languidly, as if they are the only inhabitants. Ancient Turkic nomads left enigmatic petroglyphs carved into boulders 2,000 years ago.
One winter, I went to Erfoud to research trilobites and got to know the quarries, the dealers, and the remote mining villages. They are not easy places to visit, and this was a completely unknown corner of the world economy: children slaving away on desert cliffs to furnish wealthy collectors in San Francisco.