Authors: Sue Bishop (email@example.com), Philip R. Burns (firstname.lastname@example.org) Title: Pres
Authors: Sue Bishop (email@example.com),
Philip R. Burns (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Title: Preserved Woolly Mammoth Remains: Catastrophic Origins?
By Sue Bishop:
Since Ted Holden has repeatedly insisted that the mammoth whose remains
were found in Siberia in 1901 was preserved by some great catastrophe as
described in Velikovsky's books, I decided to research the topic. I
found several books on the subject, including the original book written
by one of the scientists who actually examined, preserved and
transported the mammoth remains from Siberia.
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 mummies." (Guthrie)
"Underground frost mummification should not be confused with
freeze-drying, which occurs when a body is frozen and moisture is
removed bu sublimation, a process accelerated by a partial vacuum.
....... I have often freeze-dried items, sometimes inadvertently,
during our long Alaskan winters, where the temperature seldom rises
above freezing for eight months of the year." (Guthrie)
"However, the desiccation of fossil mummies is quite different than
freeze- drying. Moisture contained in a buried carcass 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 Berezovka
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.
E. W. Pfizenmayer was one of the scientists who actually recovered and
studied the Berezovka mammoth. I was able to obtain his book, _Siberian
Man and Mammoth_ through interlibrary loan. It's quite interesting, the
mammoth story is only a part of his book, he also commented at length on
people who were living in Siberia at the time of the scientists' journey
to get to the site of the mammoth.
Pfizenmayer says about the mammoth:
Baron E. von Toll, the well-known geological explore of Arctic
Siberia, who perished while leading the Russian expedition in 1903,
had covered in 1890 most of the sites of previous finds of mammoth and
rhinoceros bodies in carrying out his professional investigations. In
doing so he had established that the mammoth found by Adams in 1799
buried at the mouth of the Lena in a crevice of a cliff from 200 to
260 feet high, and sent by him to St. Petersberg, had been frozen in
a bank of diluvial ice on the slope of the river. This ice bank was
not (as Adams believed and stated in his description of the site of
the find) the remains of the old drift-ice whose crevices had been
filled with mud. The fissures in the bank of diluvial ice on the
Lena, which was far bigger than ours, had, according to Toll's
findings, gradually filled with earth from the top downwards, and its
upper surface covered with alluvial soil to such an extent that a fair
number of the tundra plants were able to take root on it.
Toll concluded that this particular Siberian ice was in no case
recent, but was the remains of diluvial inland ice, which once covered
the whole world, and then was gradually overlaid with earth, surviving
to this day in the Arctic regions in ice-banks of varying extent.
Our investigations confirmed his opinion. The proved that the animal
had ben preserved in the same way as Adams's mammoth, according to
Toll, had been. In both cases the bodies had been enbedded in
fissures of the diluvial inland ice. Then when the temperature fell
the mud disappeared and the ice in which they were fast frozen had
kept them, complete with their soft parts, in a state a preservation
through the ages.
Before I arrived at the site, Herz had partially dug away the hill of
earth round the body, and so both the forefeet and the hind feet were
exposed. Thse lay under the body so that it rested on them. When one
looked at the body one had the impression that it must have suddenly
fallen into an unexpected fissure in the ice, which it probably came
across in its wanderings, and which may have been covered with a layer
of plant-bearing mould. After its fall the unlucky animal must have
tried to get out of its hopeless position, for the right forefoot was
doubled up and the left stretched forward as if it had struggled to
rise. But its strength had apparently not been up to it, for when we
dug it out still farther we found that in its fall it had not only
broken several bones, but had been almost completely buried by the
falls of earth which tumbled in on it, so that it had suffocated.
It's death must have occurred very quickly after its fall, for we
found half-chewed food still in its mouth, between the back teeth and
on its tongue, which was in good preservation. The food consisted of
leaves and grasses, some of the later carrying seeds. We could tell
from these that the mammoth must have come to its miserable end in the
"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 flood." (Guthrie)
...Quackenbush (1909) concluded that the partial mammoth mummy from
Eschscholtz Bay, Alaska, was so deteriorated as to exclude "sudden fall
in temperature" theories...." (Guthrie)
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 the Mammoth Slope
are also being covered and have a large bearing on extinction of the
mammoth and other large Ice Age mammals.
Guthrie, R. Dale. _Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe_, 1990, University
of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill.
Pfizenmayer, E. W., _Siberian Man and Mammoth_, 1939. Blackie and Son,
Sutcliffe, Anthony J., _On the Track of Ice Age Mammals_, Harvard
University Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Ted keeps trying to date mammoths within the last 3000 years. In my
research I found absolutely *nothing* that was dated at that time
period. The following is from _On the Track of the Ice Age Mammals by
The absolute age in years of the frozen carcasses was for a long time
a subject of speculation. During recent years, with the availability
of Carbon 14 dating, the exact age of many of them has become known,
with surprising results. Their ages fall into two main groups, one
ranging in age from 45,000 years to 30,000 years and a smaller number
of remains from 14-11,000 years old.
Although skeletal remains lacking soft parts are known from the period
30-12,000 years ago, there is very little carcass material of this
age. A tendon on a 22,000-years-old bone of a lion from Alaska is one
of the rare examples. As we have already seen, this intervening
period was a time of massive glacial advance, the ice sheets in the
northern hemisphere expanding to their maximum extent about 18,000
years ago. There were minor, more temperate periods from about
45-25,000 years ago and about 12-11,000 years ago. It was apparently
during these ameliorations that most of the known carcasses became
frozen. This appears to be a climate-related depositional phenomenon,
related to the amount of available water (which reached its minimum at
times of glacial advance) and does not reflect an absence of mammoths
from the areas in question. Under cold arid conditions, with little
moisture to supply mudflows, carcasses would have tended ultimately to
rot on the surface with only the bones surviving for potential
fossilization. Under moister conditions summer mudflows could rapidly
have covered carcasses lying in their paths, which became permanently
frozen when the permafrost level rose above them the following
Dates of discovery and approximate radiocarbon dates of some
of the most important mammalian carcasses from Siberia and
Earlier Age Group
Adams (Lena River) Mammoth, 1799 36,000-37,000 years
Beresovka mammoth, 1900 more than 39,000
Shandrin mammoth, 1971 42,000 years
River Indigirka woolly rhino 38,000 years
Selerikan horse, 1968 35,000-40,000
'Dima', 1977 40,000
Khatanga mammoth, 1977 more than 50,000
Fairbanks, mammoth hair 32,000-34,000
Fairbanks, bison, 1951 31,000
Fairbanks, bison, 1979 36,000
Later Age Group
Taimyr Peninsula mammoth, 1948 11,500
River Berelekh mammoth remains, 1970 12,000
Yuribemammoth, 1979 9,700
Fairbanks, mammoth 15,400
Fairbanks, another bison 12,000
Fairbanks, hoof of horse, 1981 17,200
Fairbanks, musk ox 17,000
NOTE: The Beresovka mammoth is the one that Ted kept claiming was
'instantly frozen' by catastrophe. This is totally untrue, according
to the scientists who did the actual research in 1900.
Sutcliffe, Anthony J., _On the Track of the Ice Age Mammals_, Harvard
University Press, 1985.
By Philip R. Burns:
email@example.com (Ted Holden) writes:
> Again, the basic misunderstanding. As I see it, the question regarding
> mammoths in the Liakhovs, Novo-Sibirsk etc. is not whether the handful of
> preserved specimens we find were frozen, petrified, mummified, are in
> suspended animation etc. etc. That may be interesting in its own way,
> but is a sort of a diversion.
> The question is, how given anything like the standard version of Earth
> history, did vast herds of such large creatures ever find food when the
> entire territory is covered by ice ten months of the year? Elephants are
> gluttonous; they spend most of their waking hours eating, in fact,
> McGowan has stated that he does not understand how anything ever ate
> enough to get bigger than elephants since there would not appear to be
> time in the day for it.
> Velikovsky claims that these vast herds, the remnants of which are seen
> in those arctic circle island groups, were peacefully grazing on vast
> fields which were in temperal zones, when the entire surface of the Earth
> shifted due to one of the catastrophes he discusses, that they very
> quickly thus ended up in arctic regions along with their fields, and
> froze to death or otherwise died due to effects of the catastrophe
> Despite the efforts of several of the t.o crew, I have yet to hear
> another explaination of this phenomenon which makes any sense to me.
Mr. Holden again raises some questions about the ice age in Siberia and the
presence of mammoths there. Hence, I will post my previous answer with a
few modifications :-}.
We should start by asking: what kind of animals were these woolly mammoths
which inhabited the Siberian steppes? Were they suited to living in a cold
Yes. We determine this by examining preserved mammoth specimems. We begin
by comparing the bodies of mammoths of those of existing members of the
Elephantidae (the African Loxodonta and Asian Elephas). In comparison to
those of modern elephants, the bodies of mammoths were compressed
lengthwise. Mammoth trunks were shorter than those of modern elephants.
Mammoth ears were small, even compared to the smaller ears of today Asian
elephants (the ears of African Loxodonts are much larger). Mammoth tails
were much shorter than those of elephants.
Modern elephants do not have a thick covering of hair. Woolly mammoths
were covered with the same kind of double fur coat as we find on other
large mammals in northern climates today. The dense insulating inner coat
consisted of a fine wool. The long, shaggy outer coat (some hairs as long
as 50 cm) was composed of guard hairs. It appears that the mammoth changed
its hair at the beginning of summer. This happens in many other arctic
In addition to the fur coat, woolly mammoths also possessed a
three-inch-thick layer of fat underneath their skin as well as an
additional fat reserve stored in a hump above the shoulders.
Most mammoths, including the Siberian varieties, were about the same size
as modern elephants or slightly smaller. Some were larger, such as the
North American Imperial Mammoth, which reached a height of fourteen to
fifteen feet (4.5 to 5 m) at the shoulder. The Siberian mammoths were
smaller; about 9 feet (3 m) at the shoulder for males and 7 1/2 feet (2.5
m) for females.
Mammoth tusks also differed from those of modern elephants. Mammoth tusks
curved down to form a broad bow close to the ground. This answers the
question of how mammoths could break through ice-covered ground to look for
forage. Even assuming that the Siberian ground was frozen -- it usually
was NOT so frozen in the Pleistocene -- the mammoth could use its tusks to
break through the ice and snow. Is there any evidence that mammoths
actually did this? Yes. Wear patterns on mammoth tusks suggest that the
mammoths used their tusks as excavation tools.
All of these items indicate that the woolly mammoth was well adapted to
surviving in a cold climate. They illustrate adaptation typical of those
seen in other mammals which extend their ranges into colder climates. The
body increases in bulk while the total amount of exposed body surface
decreases (compressed body length of mammoths, short tails and trunks,
dense fur coat). There is no reason to doubt that mammoths could live in
cold climates as long there was adequate forage.
(Incidentally, even modern Asian elephants tolerate cold fairly well.
Elephants lived as far north as the Honan province in China into early
historical times (1500 B.C.). Asian elephants also lived in what is now
Syria, Iraq, and Iran. African loxodonts used to inhabit the whole of the
African continent into historic times.)
Was there adequate forage for animals the size of mammoths in the steppes?
The current climate of the subarctic Siberian steppes could not support
large herds of mammoths assuming they required a similar volume of food as
modern elephants. Much of Siberia today is covered by deeply and
permanently frozen ground known as permafrost. The existing tundra
vegetation is tough, low, slow-growing, and laced with bitter chemicals.
These chemicals may have evolved as a defense against foraging.
However, the Siberian steppes during the last ice age were NOT covered in
ice and snow as they are now, nor was the ground frozen. The reason is
that so much of the available water was locked up in the arctic ice pack --
primarily in North America -- that the subarctic steppes were much drier
than today. As a result, the Siberian soil thawed to a greater depth and
supported a richer variety of plant life. This included nutritious
grasses. The stomach contents of preserved mammoths indicate that they fed
on such grasses, as well as mosses, sedges, herbaceous pollens and spores,
and fragments of willow and bilberry. Some rare poppies and buttercups
have also been found in addition to small amounts of arboreal material such
as larch needles, willows, and tree bark. Such variety indicates the
mammoths lived in a variety of climates in Siberia. These ranged from dry
and steppe-like to slightly wet to swampy to arctic/alpine.
Mammoth trunk tips were bi-lobed, useful for collecting herbaceous food.
Relatively little arboreal material has been found in mammoth stomachs.
Modern elephants, in contrast, prefer an arboreal diet, and their trunk
tips are of unequal size.
The greater abundance and variety of steppe vegetation during the ice ages
explains how the steppes could support large grazing animals like
mammoths. The mammoths may also have migrated south in the winter and
north in the summer. Modern elephants are great travellers, so possibly
mammoths were too.
How old are the frozen mammoth remains from Siberia? They fall into two
main groups, one dating from about 45,000 BP to 30,000 BP and the other
from 14,000 to 11,000 BP. This does not mean that mammoths were not
present in Siberia from 30,000 BP to 14,000 BP. Instead, this indicates
the climatic conditions were not right for the formation of frozen
carcasses. There are plenty of fossil bones of mammoths from 30,000 to
14,000 BP. This was a period of massive glacial advance, resulting in
extremely dry conditions in Siberia. In these dry conditions, mammoth
carcasses would tend to rot on the surface and/or be eaten by predators.
In times of glacial retreat, when the climate was moister, summer mudflows
and floods could rapidly cover carcasses. These covered carcasses would
then become permanently frozen as the permafrost layer closed in above them
during the following winter.
Was the climate warmer or colder in Siberia at the time the mammoths lived
there? Well, both :-}. It appears that at some periods the climate was
warmer, at others it was colder. This is inferred by comparing the modern
ranges of the plants found in mammoth stomachs as well as by astronomical
calculations of temperature similar to those presented at various times in
the past in this news group. The mammoths thrived in either case. The
determinative factor was the decreased moisture so that the ground did not
become permanently frozen as it is today. As a result, the "mammoth
steppe" biome, comprised of grasses, succulent herbs, and wormwood,
thrived. This biome disappeared around 9000 BP except for some small
patches. It was replaced by the current boggy tundra vegetation and
permafrost. The mammoths, having lost their source of food, disappeared in
Siberia at about the same time. It is possible that predation by man was
also partly responsible. The earliest human remains in Siberia date from
the end of the last ice age.
What caused the ice ages? There have been many explanations proposed, none
of which appears to be solely adequate. These include:
(1) Variations in the earth's orbital characteristics (angle of the
ecliptic, eccentricity of the orbit, precession of the equinoxes).
While this is sometimes touted at being "the" explanation of the
ice ages, it cannot be the sole explanation since there have been
long periods without glaciation during which Earth's orbital
elements matched those of recent glacial periods. The patterns
of ice advance and retreat DURING an ice age do seem to track
the variations in orbital characteristics.
(2) Excessive volcanic activity -- perhaps resulting from impacts of
meteors, asteroids, or comets; or perhaps associated with the
collision of detached land masses with continents proper (e.g.,
India with the rest of Asia).
(3) Meteoritic and/or cometary impacts resulting in a kind of "nuclear
winter." This includes the possibility of regular comet showers
caused by a distant unseen solar companion (often called "Nemesis")
deflecting outlying cometary bodies into the inner solar system.
(4) Passage of the solar system through interstellar dust clouds as
the solar system moves up and down through the plane of the galaxy.
(5) "Fast" slippage of the earth's crustal plates on the underlying
magma, perhaps caused by imbalances in the distribution of ice on
continental surfaces. (This no longer appears to be a viable
(6) Variations in solar output. Perhaps the sun is a long-period
irregular variable star.
(7) Changes in ocean currents and temperatures caused by shifting
I'm sure there are other explanations I can't bring to mind right now.
Regardless of the combination of mechanisms, there have been patterns of
alternating retreat and advance of glaciers, differences in global and
local temperature, and differences in moisture. The climate in the
subarctic regions changed several times over the course of the last set of
ice ages. This is very important: the climate was NOT always the same as
it is now in Siberia.
The mammoths managed to survive all these changes except the last one, when
humans finally penetrated into Siberia. There are a number of ice-age
sites in Eastern europe which contain stacks of mammoth bones, very likely
representing the results of human predation. Many other species of
mega-fauna disappeared at the same time as the mammoths. Whether or not
humans were largely responsible for these extinctions remains a disputed
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