Mammoth Remains: What Do They Indicate?
The Evidence Doesn't Support Some Popularly Held Ideas
The purpose of this article is to present a summary of the information known about mammoth remains, associated evidence and related factors, and then to ask some questions about what these remains actually indicate.
Past articles about mammoth remains usually focus on the frozen mammoth remains found in Russia and Alaska. Some articles have indicated a wide distribution of remains in North America and Europe. Most articles appear to be written with certain presuppositions in mind, sometimes stated, but often not. Evidence that supports the author's pre-suppositions is cited, so not all the available information appears in any one article. But to understand the "mystery of the mammoths" as it has been called, all the evidence must be considered.
Pre-suppositions are important in arriving at an answer about when and how these animals met their doom. Those who have viewed this evidence from a "long age" position identify the destruction as occurring at the end of the "Pleistocene" age and relate it to the destructive extinction of other species. The Pleistocene age fits into the theoretical timetable used by geologists and palaeontologists from 1.8 million to 10 thousand years before the present time according to Josef Wolf's chart in the book 'The Dawn of Man'. Henry Morris, writing from a creationist and young earth position, refers to the "Pliocene" age in an article on the ice age in 'Creation Ex-Nihilo', dated March 1989.
He indicates that this is early post-Flood period. According to the geological sequence chart it preceded the "Pleistocene" era. Some have attributed the destruction of these animals to the Flood itself. This presents problems because of the nature of some of the detailed evidence.
Basic pre-suppositions on which analysis of mammoth remains are based are the following:
- A world-wide flood as described in Genesis chapters 6-11 was a historical event which radically changed the surface features of the earth.
- Atmospheric and climatic changes which affected both plants and animals in regard to size and predominant species occurred as a result of the flood.
- Periods of significant geological changes which occurred in the post-Flood world produced some of the surface features existing in the present time.
- Post-Flood periods having geological impact can be correlated to significant events in Bible history.
Before going into more discussion, what is known about mammoth remains? Some of the more important evidences that I am aware of are listed here, covering evidence on frozen mammoth remains. Information on mammoth remains found in other locations as well as related evidences that merit consideration is also provided. The detailed analysis of stomach contents and analyses of skin, blood and fur are well documented in other literature so are not included here.
Basic Information on Frozen Mammoth Remains
- Muck layers containing mammoth remains overlie marine sediments, and in some areas they overlie glacial deposits which overlie marine sediments (B). Muck fills valleys and ravines (G) indicating erosion before being covered by the muck (D2).
Note: Muck is frozen soil bound together with water. It is filled with silt, sand, pebbles and rocks, and it often contains masses of preserved animal and vegetable matter in various stages of decay. Where the muck is predominantly clay, the animal remains are in relatively good condition (E).
- rozen mammoth and other animal remains increase in number the further north one goes, being most numerous in the New Siberian Islands (A). They extend over northern tundras in Siberia and Alaska (A,C,E).
- Animals with preserved flesh are buried in the frozen tundra near its upper surface and usually on higher elevations. The best preserved ones are found in solid clay (A,E).
- They are accompanied by many other kinds of animals, trees and other vegetation (A,C,E,F1). Remains are, for the most part, just bones scattered about and piled in great heaps together with frozen trees.
- Marine fossils have been discovered in deposits containing frozen mammoths in island areas (E), but many are found in fresh water sedimentary deposits (B,E).
- Only a relatively small number of bodies with flesh, mammoth or other animals, have been preserved until the present time. Very few are complete. Three of four rhinoceroses found were south of the Arctic circle (B). The number of samples found indicates that a vast number may still be buried (E).
- The total number of mammoths probably exceeded forty million (A,D1).
- Ivory tusks have been preserved. Ivory is easily ruined by exposure to water. A lucrative ivory trade has existed for centuries (A,C).
- Quantities of quality ivory indicate that hundreds of thousands of animals were buried and frozen which protected the tusks from deteriorating (A,C).
- Interspersed in the Siberian and Alaskan muck and throughout the piles of bones and tusks are layers of volcanic ash (A,D1,D2).
- Animals died suddenly as indicated by food still in the mouth (A,E). (Not an indication of drowning by gradually rising water.)
- Animals died in summer as indicated by the type of food found in mouths and stomachs (B,E).
- Animals were buried in mud before being frozen. Blood from frozen limbs remained in adjacent dirt (A).
- Some animals were torn apart by violent actions (D1,D2).
- Decay began before the bodies became frozen. Analysis of the Berezovka mammoth showed deep-penetrating chemical alteration as a result of slow decay. Decay products had penetrated the ground around the animal remains, giving it a putrid odour (B).
- Once frozen in the muck, they never thawed out until exposed by erosion or excavation (A).
- Animals did not freeze to death. Their healthy condition and type of food found in their stomachs rule this out (B).
- Mammoths were not adapted to a cold climate in spite of a heavy coat of long hair and under-wool. Their skin is identical to that of modern elephants (A,E). Fur without oil indicates adaptation to warm, not cold climate. Mammoths did not have oil glands to condition fur (A,E).
- Fat accumulation is evidence of ample food supply (A).
- Indications are that some animals died of suffocation (B,E), indicated by blood analysis on one skull and erect male genital on another (A,E).
Additional Information on Frozen Mammoth Remains
- Woolly mammoth drawings are prominent in cave art indicating their existence in the post-Flood era (B).
- Many complete skeletons have been found in the tundra (A) and farther south, indicating that they were buried complete and the flesh had decayed from the bones (A,E) (equivalent to finding a complete body) (E).
- Bones, tusks and teeth are found over a large portion of North Africa and Europe. Some of the caves of Europe had mammoth remains mixed with other animals including ground sloth, rhinoceros, horse, camel. bison, antelope and tapir (E,F2).
- Large quantities of bones and skulls of horses, buffaloes, oxen and sheep are found in some areas of the tundra indicating that there were large herds of these animals as well (F1,G).
- Some mammoth remains found in association with human artefacts (knives, spear points) (D2,E).
- Radiometric dating of remains gives a range of dates from 40,000 down to 2640 years (A).
- In some upper soil layers of the tundra there are areas of large tree trunks with their roots still fast in the soil (E,F1).
- Fossil wood found in conjunction with mammoths dates about 11,000 years (A), which is the same range as near surface fossil wood found in the Great Lakes region.
- A large part of Siberia and most of Alaska, where the majority of frozen mammoths are found, never experienced an ice age. (B)
- Mammoth bones are not found in what is commonly identified by creationists as flood deposited sedimentary rock strata. It is possible that some mammoth remains are found in conjunction with flood fossils as a result of erosion, mixing and re-depositing of fossil remains.
- Long term preservation resulted from change in climate.
"The wide distribution of remains, the dismembered bodies, the piles of bones in caves and the mixing of remains in the muck indicates violent action of another sort. Water was involved, moving water on a large scale. The duration was relatively short, not the type of action described in GENESIS 7:24 where it states that the waters prevailed upon the earth for 150 days. The movement of water can be identified to some extent by geological and historical records."
Clues to Mammoth Population and Range
Most mammoth remains can be classified as surface deposits. The frozen muck which fills the valleys and ravines in the tundra is above the sedimentary rock strata identified as flood deposits.
The Siberian coal fields are part of this underlying strata. Hibbins states that the depth of the muck varies from 4 to 100 feet, and portions were deposited under catastrophic conditions. In other areas mammoth bones, teeth and tusks are found in peat bogs, surface gravel deposits and in caves. Remains found in caves that are formed in flood strata indicate that there had to be enough time for erosion processes to produce the caves in which animal remains later became deposited. Dillow cites a statement from Howorth (1883) of the possibility that the Pleistocene cave deposits indicate a post-Flood mammoth extinction or catastrophe in that some of the caves are made of fossiliforous limestone or other rocks which were presumably formed during the flood (G,F). Wright indicates that in all the caves where ancient relics and the remains of extinct animals were found, there was a distinct layer of stalagmite formation between the ancient and modern deposits (F2). The fact that woolly mammoths are prominent in cave art indicates that some caves must have been in existence for an extended time period (before the catastrophe that roamed over North America and Europe) before they died out.
Estimates of the mammoth population being greater than 40 million leads to the conclusion that the mammoth became a predominant species in the post-Flood time period. How many generations would it take for a single pair of mammoths coming off the Ark to reach a population of about 40 million? Assuming an average of six offspring from each pair, it would take from 12 to 14 generations to reach that figure. One could speculate that at least 500 years would have to elapse before that population was reached. Population would tend to stabilise in its range depending on predators and range limitations. The healthy conditions of the frozen specimens indicate that they were not being pressured for survival when they were catastrophically annihilated.
The "fresh" condition of the meat of some mammoth remains has generated considerable written speculation as to how it has survived. Those that were found with food still in their mouth and stomach died suddenly (instantly) in the summer and were buried in a mixture of mud, trees and other vegetation before they were frozen.
This precludes a "sudden freezing" of the animals since the earth around them had to freeze first. Decay processes had started. In fact, most animals either decayed away, or those near the surface may have been eaten by scavengers. The surviving frozen animals according to the listed evidence were generally in the higher portions of the tundra but not at the top.
Recent studies of landfill decay processes may help in determining why some animals were preserved. The muck, before it was frozen, could be considered a large garbage pile because of the mixture of vegetation, animals remains and dirt. Richard Severo, a 'New York Times' reporter, revealed in a recent article that garbage, including meat, other edibles, newspaper, etc. was found to be as fresh as the day it was committed to the dump heap after seven years of being buried in a landfill where most material was rotting away. The area where this unrotted material was found was near the top of the landfill. Why it was preserved is still under study, but the similarity to the frozen mammoth remains found in higher portions of the muck layers is apparent. It should also provide a good clue as to where to look for more mammoth remains.
How fast the remains became frozen is unknown, but it appears that it did not have to be rapid because most remains did decay away. But once the muck became frozen, it remained that way for centuries. The change in climate was sudden and permanent. The mammoths did not live in Siberia and Alaska under current climate conditions. Pictures of mammoths wandering around in the snow and falling off cliffs are artistic renditions based on a gradual extinction philosophy.
Volcanic ash mixed in the frozen muck indicates that major volcanic eruptions occurred at the same time the muck was being deposited. Some fossil remains found in Nebraska were buried in volcanic ash (National Geographic, January 1981: "Pompeii of Prehistoric Animals in Nebraska"). These included large numbers of rhinoceroses as well as camels and three-toed horses. Large deposits of volcanic ash are found in sediments of the Mediterranean area, also indicating a time of heavy volcanic activity. Also, in the same area, animal bone deposits in "ground pockets" were fresh enough to be sent to France to be used as animal charcoal in the sugar factories according to G.M. Price. The pattern of this type of activity seems to indicate a world wide event or series of events.
Carbon-14 dating of mammoth remains shows a wide range of values. What once was thought to be a precise method of dating organic fossils has in recent years been shown to be inconsistent for material more than one or two thousand years of age. Different types of material of the same calendar age also have different radiometric ages, so one must be careful to compare "like kinds" when using carbon-14 dates.
Carbon-14 dating of fossil remains from the La Brea tar pits of Los Angeles county (which are surface deposits) give dates of similar range as those of the mammoths. No dates were reported for the Nebraska fossils. Their theoretical 10 million year age was supposedly too old to be dated, but I would suspect actual measurements would produce dates in the same range as the mammoth remains.
Fossil wood found in conjunction with mammoth remains has reported carbon-14 dates in the 11,000 year category. Fossil wood found in Cretaceous limestone in Texas by Fred Beierle (F) had a carbon-14 date of 12,800 years. Fossil wood from Northern Michigan's buried forest of spruce trees (another surface deposit) has been dated at about 11,000 years as have other samples from the Great Lakes region (M). The fact that the carbon-14 dates of mammoth remains bracket the wood sample dates does not in itself prove or disprove anything about the age of the mammoth remains. It does indicate more variation in dating mammoth remains than in dating fossil wood.
How did the mammoths die? Death caused by suffocation has been indicated by study of the remains of several specimens. Some have concluded this to mean death by drowning, but we have previously shown in the list of evidences that an animal would not likely drown with food still in its mouth. Because of the indication of volcanic activity it is possible that toxic gasses could overcome large quantities of animals and cause sudden death. Such causes of death have been documented involving both animals and people. The animals would have to be relatively near the source of the volcanic gasses, and those who support this cause of death have not identified where the source was. Also, the widespread location of remains would preclude all animals dying of one cause. Another cause of sudden death is electrocution. Lightning strikes near herds of cattle or flocks of sheep have killed many of them. The actual cause of death in many such cases is suffocation because the electrical shock stops breathing. The biblical record in PSALM 78:48 describes the Egyptian flocks as being killed by "hot thunderbolts" during one of the plagues before the Exodus. Disturbances in the atmosphere at the time of the mammoth extinction could have produced violent electrical storms which contributed to the death of many animals.
The wide distribution of remains, the dismembered bodies, the piles of bones in caves and the mixing of remains in the muck indicates violent action of another sort. Water was involved; moving water on a large scale. The duration was relatively short, not the type of action described in GENESIS 7:24 where it states that the waters prevailed upon the earth for 150 days. The movement of water can be identified to some extent by geological and historical records.
Geologists have studied erratic boulders and have charted their motion from known points of origin. Erratic boulders are rocks that differ from the rock formation on which they lie.
Rocks originating in Norway are found in the British Isles and in Germany, not only in lowlands but also in mountainous country. Stone blocks from Finland have been moved across Poland to the Carpathians and across western Russia as far as the Don river. Granite blocks from Canada are spread over Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio (K).
Price indicates that motion was from a northern direction and that it occurred after earlier geological changes had occurred because the till and boulders are derived from surface rocks. Wright identified rocks in Ohio as being from outcroppings in Canada 400 miles to the north-west. Not all geologists agree about what moved the erratic boulders and till to their present locations. Physical evidence does indicate that much of the till and smaller boulders were deposited in stratified layers by water in extremely violent action. Some strata has ocean shells mixed in to confirm the water action (G). Wright attributed some of the boulders and till to glacier action, but admitted that some extended well beyond the limits of identifiable glaciation.
Indian legends relate that at one time the earth was plunged into darkness for a long time. A medicine man saw a bright light in the north, but it proved to be a wall of water sweeping over the land. As a result, most people drowned. Some journeyed eight days by canoe to a new land. During this time there was lightning in every direction (J).
In Asia, south of Siberia, the Chinese recorded that the ocean water swept over the tops of the mountains and filled the valleys for many years. Excavations in northern China have produced interesting fossil remains which appear to be the result of that flooding. A cave formed in hard fossiliferous limestone produced a vast quantity of animal bones, many of which were complete skeletons. These included deer, bears, tigers, hyenas and ostriches, most of which are now extinct species. Along with these bones were the skeletons of seven human beings ranging in age from an infant to approximately 60 years. All seven had fractured skulls indicating that they died violently. Identification of the nationality types indicated that one was a European, one woman was a Melanesian having the distinctive strap mark on the forehead similar to those found on skulls of modern persons, and one was an Eskimo. The significance of the different nationalities being found in a common grave is that the event that put them there must have been world-wide in scope. It also indicates that the cave was a post-Flood formation in flood strata, and the source of water which swept over Siberia evidently also came over China.
Figure 1 shows a possible path of the water. Looking at a globe north-westward across North America gives a better perspective. Water from the western Pacific Ocean moving northward would sweep across China, Mongolia and Siberia. Some would continue across Alaska and northern Canada and down across the United States. Water that crossed western Siberia would continue down across Norway, Sweden and Finland to England, Germany, Poland and other parts of Europe. As the water moved along it would sweep animals, trees and soil into the valleys and ravines. Animals would in some cases be torn apart by the violent action. Others would be carried along and deposited thousands of miles from their origin. Rocks and boulders would be ripped from the surface of the earth and deposited along the path of the water. After the initial rush of water there would be large flooded areas which would gradually subside and leave "food" evidence on a large scale. A post catastrophe ice age would further move some of the rocks and animal remains, and along with the climate change create one of the most baffling mysteries for evolutionist and creationist alike.
The question that comes next is when did this great event occur? We have speculated that it was in the post-Flood era, and it must have been a long enough time after the flood for sizeable populations of animals to become established. One item of evidence which has not yet been introduced will help in determining the time. It is not found in science books or any normal reference books, probably because it cannot be explained with modern philosophy of man. In the late 1930's the remains of an ancient city of about 800 houses was found in Alaska at Point Hope, about 130 miles above the Arctic circle. Only the foundations remain of the houses, but tombs in the graveyard produced many delicately engraved instruments and ivory carvings like those from China and Japan from about 3,500 years ago. They also produced skeletons which had carved ivory eyeballs inlaid with jet inserted in the eye sockets, and with carved ivory nose plugs and mouth covers. The tombs were made from large timbers indicating that wood must have been in abundance when the city was occupied. The city and the artwork indicate an advanced culture, but dated in a specific post-Flood period (I). It is another surface feature which probably met its fate when the mammoths met theirs.
What was significant about the time of 3,500 years ago? French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer dates many destructive events in the Mediterranean area to that time period. Velikovsky was another who identified many events in that time period which indicated global chaos. This is the time of the Exodus recorded in the Bible which saw God's wrath poured out on Egypt over a number of months as He persuaded pharaoh to let His people go.
The reference in the Indian legends to the period of darkness before the tidal wave reminds us of the days of darkness during one of the plagues on Egypt. Historians have indicated that terrible storms occurred during that time. What is evident from recorded history is that much of the world suffered greater destruction than Egypt did.
Was there more than one ice age? Probably so. Ice ages are produced primarily by large amounts of precipitation over moderately cold areas, not by severe cold conditions as many have assumed. Large amounts of snow piling up compress into ice packs rather quickly as those of us living in the northern part of the U.S.A can attest to. An ice age after the flood would not necessarily cover the same area as a later ice age which probably occurred after the mammoth extinction. The second ice age would account for some of the surface features found in the present time period. Much could be written about ice ages, but that is a separate subject from the purpose of this article.
What caused the water to sweep over Siberia and North America? This is another topic about which large volumes could be written and is not a part of this article. But enough historical documentation exists to indicate that large disturbances occurred at the time of the Exodus to impact large areas of the earth. Ancient history books have been purged of some of the most interesting historical events which had significant effects on many nations. An ancient history professor's response to the question of why some of this material wasn't included was that it was too hard to explain. A more realistic reason is that it probably doesn't fit the philosophy of the text book writers.
Why Mammoth Remains are Not the Result of Noah's Flood
Mammoth remains are surface deposits on eroded terrain, and overlying sedimentary rock strata. Where were the mammoths while the sedimentary strata below them were being laid down by the flood if in fact the mammoths were victims of the flood?
The continents as we know them were apparently already established, i.e. the post-Flood world. The temperature stabilising effects of water would preclude a sudden freeze of a large area of land under the water.
Apparent burial conditions are contrary to the details stated in the Bible which specifies a period of 150 days when the water prevailed. Animals left in water for 150 days would be almost totally disintegrated. There would not be much left in one location to produce the masses of remains over such a large area as Siberia and Alaska.
It was years ago when reviewing details about the frozen mammoths which were presented in the context of flood evidence that I began questioning the proposed relationship of these remains to the flood if the details given in the Bible were true. It was some years later when I became familiar with some of the post-Flood events that led me to do research into post-Flood catastrophes. And it was just recently that I found a clue as to why some mammoth remains could be preserved while others rotted away that provided the incentive for this article.
Lee Grady's article on the mystery of the frozen giants which appeared in "Bible-Science Newsletter" in April 1985 (now out of print and unavailable, ed.) pointed out that the lesson to be learned from the great destruction of mammoths and other animals is that there is a God in heaven who, being a God of love and mercy, is also a God of righteous judgement. To me the judgement in which these animals died was not the flood but a significant post-Flood judgment associated with the events of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
by Robert Helfinstine
B. Farrand, William R., (17 March 1961) "Frozen Mammoths and Modern Geology" Science.
C. Stewart, John Massey, (Dec. 1977) "Frozen Mammoths from Siberia Bring the Ice Ages to Vivid Life" Smithsonian, Vol.8, No.9.
D. Hibben, Franc C. (1) The Lost Americans. (2) American Antiquities (1943), "Evidence of Early Man in Alaska".
E. Dillow, Joseph C., "The Waters Above", Chapters 10-12.
F. Wright, G.F., (1) "Asiatic Russia" (1902). McClure, Phillips and Co. New York. (2) "Man and the Glacial Period" (1898)
G. Price, G.M., "The New Geology" (1923).
H. Moore, Ruth, "Man, Time and Fossils" (1953).
I. E. Stefansson, "Here is Alaska"
J. Bellamy, H.S., "Moons, Myths and Man".
K. Velikovsky, I, "Earth in Upheaval".
L. Beierle, Fred, "A New Kind of Evidence from the Paluxy", CRS Quarterly (Sept. 1979).
M. Information received from Dr. Merry, investigator of the buried forest, during a personal visit to Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan.
Source: ‘Bible Science Newsletter’, April 1990