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Yakutia: the Mammoth Museum
December 30, 2015 21:10


Mammoths are an exclusive wealth of Yakutia, the same as gold and diamonds. The first “officially registered” mammoth’s remains were found in Yakutia back in 1799. Every year since that year spring rivers have regularly washed more and more fossils out of the Yakut soil - there is a version that this abundance of discoveries caused the expression “Russia - the native land of elephants”.

A lot of remains of prehistoric animals (mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses, buffalos, musk oxen, cave lions) that will be enough for several museums have been found during the whole period of excavations. The Mammoth Museum, the only one in the world, operates in Yakutsk, at the Republican Academy of Sciences - other countries simply do not have such a large number of exhibits.

The first mammoth’s skeleton was discovered in Yakutia in 1799 by the expedition of the young scientist Mikhail Ivanovich Adams, a zoologist from the capital’s Academy of Sciences. The expedition was organized after it became known that a Yakutian hunter found a tusk frozen in the ice in the delta of the Lena River. The skeleton found by Adams’ expedition was named the Mammoth of Adams.

Next expedition set off for mammoths to the area of the Kolyma River at the beginning of XX century. It was headed by Otto Fedorovich Hertz, another Russian scientist of German blood. New research was conducted already in the late Soviet era - it was the time when the possibilities of deep study of the soil, data collection and processing have emerged. One of the latest valuable trophies was found in 2002: a whole head of a mammoth. This finding has traveled the world together with the exhibition “The Mammoths of Yakutia” and created such a sensation that the Japanese government asked the Mammoth Museum to bring the exhibition to Japan once more.

The museum was founded in 1991 as a scientific and cultural centre for the study of mammoths and their habitats. It was included into the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia in 1995. The museum has no building of its own, is occupies one of the premises of the Faculty of Sciences of the North-Eastern Federal University. The dozens of stands are dominated by a copy of the baby mammoth Dima, the most popular Yakut mammoth found in the upper reaches of the Kolyma River in 1977.

The real Dima stays in St. Petersburg nowadays, but the Yakut museum could not do without this star of the real Ice Age, not a cartoon one. If you are not satisfied with the copy, you can descend to the 12-meter mine of the Institute of Frost Science (called “Merzlotka” by the locals) in search of authenticity - Dima had spent many years there, in the laboratory. The baby mammoth is a more symbolic exhibit, but the skeleton of a woolly rhinoceros in the centre of the exhibition is real. It has no wool, but still has a horn. Bones, teeth, tusks and other remains of prehistoric animals are exhibited in the museum next to the maps and photos of expeditions; surprisingly, interactivity is the responsibility of the professor Mamontov who conducts workshops in ivory carving. Using the tools, similar to the blood-curdling dentist’s instruments, the master carves a miniature mammoth with the thinnest tusks and a trunk out of bone just in ten minutes.


Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Yakutia     

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