I have been searching for some time for information about the weight of mammoth tusks. I quite inadvertently came across this today while searching something else. Such is the way of libraries and the internet. It seems that the old estimates for a fifteen to sixteen foot long tusk weighing over 300 pounds is fairly realistic when compared to some African elephant examples from the nineteenth century. From Work, No. 161, 1892.
We, at the Clovis site, have a tie to Vero Beach through the work of Dr. Elias Sellards. Much of his work in New Mexico was forty years later but we owe a great debt to his research out here.
I hope we find more paleoindian art as it is mysterious to me why there is so little in the Americas.
“Mammoth Engraved on Bone from Florida,” Mammoth Trumpet (27) 1 January 2012
“Human Remains and Associated Fauna from the Pleistocene of Florida,” Florida State Geological Survey 1916.
Recent travels allowed for a quick visit to the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. Now in their one hundredth year of excavation, the site has yielded over 600 species to date with a NISP of over 3.5 million (not counting over 200 bacteria). It’s a remarkable place and I feel privileged to to have been given an excellent tour by Dr John Harris and Curator Gary Takeuchi. Tar still bubbles and oozes and excavations continue, thanks in part to continuing growth of this highly urbanized area.
Although most of the tar seeps are closed off for safety, a couple can be accessed with a guide. The surface is just as deceptive as it is described and is often covered with leaves and dirt. The tar can also be deceptively solid feeling until the incredible stickiness locks your feet to the tar. Dr Harris provided a great example by having us poke the tar with a wooden lath. Even though it is solid enough to resist the lath for more than a top inch or two, it is extremely difficult to pull it back out again and it’s easy to imagine a hooved animal becoming mired almost instantly to await it’s demise by large cat or wolf or even thirst.
For reasons that aren’t completely clear, there are an extremely high number of predators and scavengers in the mix, implying that many carnivores may be tempted by a struggling animal but the more cautious grazers were likely scared away by their thrashing comrades. The upshot of this is an enormous number of coyotes, wolves, saber-toothed cats, short-faced bears, and American lions as well as the full gamut of vulture-like birds filling these pits and seeps. Below I am holding the humerus of a Smilodon fatalis, a prevalent creature at the Tar Pits.
Tusks grow like tree-rings and tell scientists a lot about the environment the creature lived in by proxy. A section of this particular specimen has been removed for analysis already.
For anyone interested in Ice Age fauna, the Page Museum is a definite “must see” stop on the journey through life.
A fun, and remarkably good-looking, mammoth sculpture in Bluff, Utah. Set to burn on the solstice to honor the mammoth petroglyphs found nearby. I love Bluff and wish I could get up there for the event.
Study suggests Beringia’s shaggy behemoths went extinct after a slow and gradual decline.
“Why are there no more woolly mammoths? The last isolated island populations of these huge beasts disappeared about 4,000 years ago — well after the Pleistocene extinction that wiped out much of the world’s megafauna — but what triggered their demise remains a frustrating mystery. According to the latest study to contribute to the ongoing debate, the last mammoths disappeared after a long, slow decline in numbers rather than because of a single cause.” Read on.
The Yuka Mammoth. A very interesting and important find from Siberia tells us some harsh facts about its demise. Investigators believe it was taken by a large predator, possibly a lion, then stolen away by humans. “Even more interesting, there are hints that humans may have taken over the kill at an early stage.”
Tusk and tooth analysis indicate that the mammoth was about two and a half years old when it died. I haven’t seen an academic publication yet but hope to read more about it soon. The dates discussed are tentatively about 10,000 years old, placing the find near the end of our Paleoindian period. Healed wounds on the hide suggest that the young mammoth survived an earlier attack but fresh wounds were likely related to the cause of death. Later cuts on the hide and bones, with the subsequent removal of the skull, ribs, and pelvis are believed to be caused by humans. Hopefully, further investigations with clarify the human interaction.
Soft tissue preservation is rare and will add greatly to our general knowledge of this extinct species. Read the story here.
Below is a great link to learn more about Eurasian mammoths, brought to you by the BBC.
A new work by Jud Turner caught my attention as I really want a mammoth representation for the Clovis site. Much of his work is from found or salvaged objects but have a distinctly biological “feel”.
I know it doesn’t really aide the viewer in any scientific way but I think the sense of scale is transmitted by life-size representations, whether three-dimensional, flat, or even abstract. The construction photos on his site are fairly impressive due to the scale of the project.