MadSci Network: Science History


Date: Tue Mar 21 13:34:46 2000
Posted By: Michael Onken, MadSci Admin
Area of science: Science History
ID: 952038806.Sh

Actually, there are records of several mammoths found frozen in ice and tundra over the last couple centuries, as well as stories of previous discoveries by native arctic peoples. A couple of the more complete mummified specimens have had foods in various stages of digestion in the stomach and intestinal tract, but only one specimen, the Berezovka mammoth found in Siberia in 1901, mentioned food still in the mouth:

"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." 
                                           - E. W. Pfizenmayer 
                                             Siberian Man and Mammoth

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