Preservation of the mammoth remains was somewhat different than has been
imagined by the uninformed. The mammoths were 'mummified', a process that
is quite easily done in a cold environment. Guthrie compares it to the
process that packaged meat undergoes in a freezer.
The following is from Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe by Guthrie:
"The word *mummy* has long been used to describe carcasses preserved in
northern permafrost. Some have objected to this usage on the basis that
preservation by freezing is unlike 'real' mummification of an embalmed or
dried corpse. However, frozen carcasses, like Dima and Blue Babe, (two
well preserved carcasses described in his book, Dima is a baby mammoth,
Blue Babe is a bison) are indeed desiccated and fully deserve to be called
"Underground frost mummification should not be confused with freeze-drying,
which occurs when a body is frozen and moisture is removed by sublimatioin,
a process accelerated by a partial vacuum. ....... I have often freeze-dried
items, sometimes inadvertantly, during our long Alaskan winters, where the
temperature seldom rises above freezing for eight months of the year."
"However, the desiccation of fossil mummies is quite different than freeze-
drying. Moisture contained in a buried carcase is not released to the
atmosphere but is crystallized in place, in ice lenses around the mummy.
This process is more comparable to tightly wrapped food left too long in
a freezer. When a stew is first frozen, it swells to a somewhat larger
size, bulging the sealed plastic container. The longer it stays in the
freezer, month after month, the more the moisture begins to separate, forming
ice crystals inside the container. The stew itself shrinks and desiccates.
Year follows year, and the stew becomes more and more desiccated, as ice
segregates from it. Eventually, the stew has become a shriveled, dehydrated
block; unlike freeze-drying in which the object theoretically retains its
original form, the stew is shrunken in size and surrounded by a network of
clear ice crystals. Soft tissue becomes mummified and shrunken down, looking
like a desiccated mummy dried in the sun. These two processes of cold
mummification and freeze-drying were not distinctly understood by people
unfamiliar with long winters and the back corners of deep freezers" (Guthrie)
The picture in the Sutcliffe book shows the front leg of the Beresovka
mammoth. The muscles are dried straps over the bones, quite as Guthrie
describes, looking very mummified.
As for instant freezing, as claimed by Ted Holden, there is no evidence of
that. The Berezovka mammoth shows evidence of having been buried in a
landslide, the cold mud acting as preservative and the underlying permafrost
completing the process by freezing the carcass.
"Lapparent attributes the extinction of the mammoth to a gradual increase
in cold and a decrease in the supply of food, rather than to a cataclysmic
...Quackenbush (1909) concluded that the partial mammoth mummy from
Eschscholtz Bay, Alaska, was so deteriorated as to exclude "sudden fall in
I am still doing research on Mammoth diet and climate at the time of the
burial of the Berezovka mammoth. Types of data being studied, stomach and
mouth contents of the said mammoth, stomach contents of other mammoths found.
Lake bottom sediment cores, showing pollen and vegetation over the last
10,000 years. Comments by Guthrie on how the climatic changes of the ice
age affected the ratio of edible vegetation from then to present. Estimation
of snow depths on Mammoth Steppe during ice age. Ice cores from glaciers.
I am also still waiting for more books I requested through interlibrary loan.