Depictions of Mammoths before and after sufficient evidence was found

I kind of wish that such a ridiculous beast actually existed – rather charming, even if preposterous.  

Copy of an interpretation of the “Adams mammoth” carcass from around 1800, with Johann Friedrich Blumenbach‘s handwriting

Remains of various extinct elephants were known by Europeans for centuries, but were generally interpreted, based on biblical accounts, as the remains of legendary creatures such as behemoths or giants. It was also theorised that they were remains of modern elephants that had been brought to Europe during the Roman Republic, for example the war elephants of Hannibal and Pyrrhus of Epirus, or animals that had wandered north. The first woolly mammoth remains studied by European scientists were examined by Hans Sloane in 1728 and consisted of fossilised teeth and tusks from Siberia. Sloane was the first to recognise that the remains belonged to elephants.

Sloane turned to another biblical explanation for the presence of elephants in the Arctic, asserting that they had been buried during the Great Flood, and that Siberia had previously been tropical prior to a drastic climate change. Others interpreted Sloane’s conclusion slightly differently, arguing the flood had carried elephants from the Tropics to the Arctic. Sloane’s paper was based on travellers’ descriptions and a few scattered bones collected in Siberia and Britain. He discussed the question of whether or not the remains were from elephants, but drew no conclusions. In 1738, the German zoologist Johann Philipp Breyne argued that mammoth fossils represented some kind of elephant. He could not explain why a tropical animal would be found in such a cold area as Siberia, and suggested that they might have been transported there by the Great Flood. In 1796, the French anatomist Georges Cuvier was the first to identify the woolly mammoth remains not as modern elephants transported to the Arctic, but as an entirely new species. He argued this species had gone extinct and no longer existed, a concept that was not widely accepted at the time.

When excavated, this mammoth was almost intact and retained skin, muscles, and innards. It was found in 1900 at the Berezovka River, a tributary of the Kolyma.
see also: http://www.donsmaps.com/bcmammoth.html

Mummified Steppe Bison from 43,000 ya during a warm period, Kenai Peninsula. Displayed at University of Alaska Museum of the North

http://peninsulaclarion.com/outdoors/2012-12-06/refuge-notebook-bison-in-our-back-yard

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