Woolly Mammoths 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 1990)
“Underground frost mummification should not be confused with freeze-drying, which occurs when a body is frozen and moisture is removed by 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 1990)
“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 1990)
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. They proved that the animal had been 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. These 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.
“Its 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 autumn.”
“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 1990)
“…Quackenbush (1909) concluded that the partial mammoth mummy from Eschscholtz Bay, Alaska, was so deteriorated as to exclude ’sudden fall in temperature” theories…’” (Guthrie 1990)
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.
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 Sutcliffe:
“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 winter.”
Mammoth Carcass Radiocarbon Dates
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
‘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
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, London