Lot 80 (Home & Garden (Live Auction), 20th March 2018)
Natural History: A large male mammoth skeleton Ice Age Tomsk Region Siberia 240cm high by 400cm long
These four skeletons (lots 80, 81 and 82) are in excellent condition both in terms of bone quality but also completeness. The nature of their discovery as a group in fluvial deposits strongly suggests that their demise was a rapid event and that they were together before being overwhelmed by a cataclysmic disaster giving us a remarkable insight into life around 10000 years ago. The Mammoth is one of the great icons of extinction. Perhaps only Tyrannosaurus rex the Dodo or a long-necked dinosaur can compare with its graphic power. Even the word 'mammoth'has now transcended its original meaning and is now a synonym for huge size strength or great value. Its image is so familiar and even though it is very much a prehistoric animal the species survived until comparatively recent times; in human terms its existence is almost close enough to touch. Although its heyday was long long ago mammoths still survived in many places 10000 years ago. It is a little known fact that on remote islands in the Bering Straits mammoths lived on until around 2000 years BC - which means that there were living mammoths at the time when the pyramids were being built! In earlier times herds of mammoths roamed over large areas of the world and fossilized fragments of bone or teeth are found in many places. But complete preserved skeletons are comparatively rare and their preparation for museum exhibitions even rarer. This is for two main reasons. The intrinsic rarity of such complete fossils is the first of course. The second concerns the great cost of digging out entire specimens from the deposits they have lain in for thousands of years. Then comes the cost of transporting them from the remote places in which they are found. Add to this the enormous amount of painstaking preparation that goes into readying the bones for exhibition. On an autumn morning at the start of the 21st century workers from a nearby construction site noticed that recent flooding had washed away tons of earth and sand close to the River Chulym in the Tomsk Region of Russia. This action of the water revealed something remarkable. The area was littered with bones - some of them very large - that had been preserved in ancient fluvial deposits. On investigation it was discovered that the bones belonged to mammoths that seemed to have died around 10000 years ago in some kind of natural disaster. Certainly there was no evidence that the hand of man had had anything to do with the deaths. A number of more or less complete mammoth skeletons were eventually extracted including the family group now being offered for sale. This group consists of an adult male two females of very different ages and a very young individual - perhaps no more than a year old. This particular baby is probably only the second relatively complete skeletal example in the world. It is so well preserved that it can be seen that small portions of the long leg bones are not yet fully ossified and not completely fused. The bones of the adult male are in exceptionally good condition and reveal that whatever disaster overtook these animals it must have done so very quickly. The bones of the first of the two females come from an individual that is judged (from dental evidence) to have been around 45 years of age at the time of her death. The second female was a much younger animal perhaps only 8 or 9 years old and not completely fully grown. Because of their unique importance these mammoths have been exhibited across Europe at various venues. In 2004 they were shown at Erbach in Germany before moving on during the following year to Bad Belzig. Then in 2006 they were shown at Montreux in Switzerland and the next year in Fribourg. Natural History: A large male mammoth skeleton Ice Age Tomsk Region Siberia 240cm high by 400cm long
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