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KRONOS Winter 1975
The Problem of The Frozen Mammoths
Much has been written
concerning the frozen mammoths of Siberia. It is not the intention of this
paper to summarize the abundant literature on the subject but rather to
correct some misconceptions which have arisen due to certain carelessness in
the treatment of the subject by past writers.
It has been stated that the
remains of as many as 100,000 mammoths have been retrieved from the Siberian
muck.(1) Statements such as " absolutely countless numbers"(2) and "tens
of thousands of mammoths”(3) have given the false impression that that
many mammoths have actually been found frozen in the Siberian tundras.
In point of fact less than 100 frozen mammoths have been discovered to
date. Hapgood writes of "eighty-odd mammoths;"(4) Schuchert and Dunbar
state that "there are records of fifty-one Siberian occurrences;'(5) while
Farrand asserts that "there have been at least 39 discoveries of frozen
mammoth remains."(6) Somewhere there should be an accurate record but in no
way will it include tens of thousands of these frozen specimens. What is
more important is that only four of these discoveries were
close to being complete carcasses.(7) The rest were badly mutilated, most of
them mere hunks of flesh and matted hair.(8) The remaining evidence
consists solely of tusks and bones.
There also seems to be some
doubt concerning the oft-repeated statement that the flesh of these animals
was still fresh when discovered.(9) Farrand actually claims that all the
frozen specimens were rotten.(10) Nor is he the only one who contests the
matter. According to Herz, who led the expedition sent to retrieve the
Berezovka mammoth, "portions of decayed flesh" were found upon the left
hind leg. "The stench. . . was unbearable, so that it was necessary to
stop work every minute." The putrid odor lasted for at least two days and
even a "thorough washing" failed to stem the stink from the excavators'
hands.(11) Tolmachoff claims that even the frozen ground surrounding mammoth
carcasses was saturated with the same unbearable stench.(12)
There have also been various
reports to the effect that humans have often safely fed on the meat of these
frozen beasts although some have stated that people have actually been made
ill by eating this "preserved" meat.(13) Despite the stench and the decayed
flesh, Herz actually goes on to say that the meat from under the shoulder of
the Berezovka mammoth was "fibrous and marbled with fat. . . dark red in
color" and looked "as fresh as well-frozen beef or horsemeat." "It looked
so appetizing," Herz was later to remark, "that we wondered for some time
whether we should taste it, but no one would venture to take it into his
mouth. " The dogs, meanwhile, "cleaned up whatever mammoth meat was thrown
to them."(13a) According to Farrand, only such dogs ever showed any
appetite for frozen mammoth meat.(14)
That Yakuts, as Lydekker
states, (15) might have tasted mammoth flesh, there is little doubt. Seeing
that their dogs ate the meat without harm would have tempted them to try a
morsel themselves. But the horrible stench of the carcasses and visible
signs of putrefaction seems to speak against the "hearty meal" that Barnes,
Lydekker and Hapgood describe.(16) Joseph Barnes, former correspondent of
the New York Herald Tribune, says that he attended a
mammoth-meat banquet which was held at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow in
the 1930's .(17)
Such stories, however,
had been circulating ever since the discovery of the Berezovka
mammoth in 1900. According to Tolmachoff,(18) stories of a banquet
on the flesh of the Berezovka mammoth are pure invention.
The above discussion
does not, however, negate Velikovsky's contention that the mammoths
were killed instantly due to asphyxiation and almost immediately
That fewer than 100
mammoths have, in whole or in part, been discovered frozen in the
Siberian tundras does not necessarily mean that only that many
mammoths met their end in such a manner. We do not know how many
such mammoths might have been discovered by early ivory hunters, nor
can we tell how many more yet remain to be found. The tens of
thousands of mammoth tusks, known to have been retrieved from the
Siberian tundras,(20) prove that vast herds once roamed these
parts. Since the ivory thus retrieved was still in perfect and
workable condition,(21) it proves that the tusks themselves must
have been frozen suddenly. "Exposure in their ordinary condition
would speedily deteriorate the quality of the ivory.(22)
The putrefaction of
the flesh should pose no problem to Velikovsky's thesis either. The
fact that it survived to modem times proves that it could not have
started to decompose at the time of death. Since all of the frozen
mammoths were discovered after they thawed out of their icy
tombs, putrefaction could have started then. In fact,
although the Berezovka mammoth was discovered in August of 1900, it
was not until September of 1901 that the Imperial Academy of
Sciences arrived to study and collect the beast, after the animal's
skull and back had been exposed to the Sun of two summers.(23) In
this and in similar cases, the present cold of the Siberian tundras
would have slowed the deteriorating process but it could not
entirely arrest it.
My intention here is
not to repeat old arguments in defence of Velikovsky. But since
Earth in Upheaval, the mammoth evidence has again been
challenged. William Farrand indirectly attacked Velikovsky long
after the latter published his thesis.(24) It therefore behooves us
to attempt a short refutation of the former's criticism.
Farrand did not direct
his attack solely against Velikovsky. His pen also attempted to
sweep aside Ivan Sanderson and Charles Hapgood, both of whom,
although disagreeing with Velikovsky on the actual cause, preached a
catastrophic extinction for the Siberian mammoths.
In an attempt to prove
that climatic factors could not have been responsible for the
extermination of these animals, Farrand stated that “woolly mammoths
(Mammuthus primigenius) were well adapted to extreme cold and to
tundra vegetation-conditions which still characterize the area where
frozen cadavers have been found.”(25)
Farrand supports this
statement by a table which purports to show that such plants, as
were discovered in the stomach of the Berezovka mammoth and in
deposits enclosing the Mamontova mammoth, are plants which can still
be found thriving in the same areas today.(26) However, he then
contradicts himself by stating: "In general, this flora assemblage
is ‘richer . . ., somewhat warmer and probably also moister' than
the present flora of the tundra in which frozen mammoth carcasses
are now found.(27)
Farrand also quotes
Quackenbush(28) who found "large trees associated with fossil
mammoths in a now-treeless part of Alaska.(29) Quackenbush had
also come to the conclusion that the climate must have been milder
at the time the mammoths lived.(30) Even Farrand himself, though,
was forced to admit that "an apparent paradox remains—that the
climate in northern Siberia was warmer than at present at some
period in late glacial time when climates elsewhere on the earth
were cooler than at present.”(31)
Farrand accepts the
implication that "sudden death is indicated by the robust condition
of the animals and their full stomachs.(32) Full stomachs, however,
were not the only indications of sudden death. In the case of the
Berezovka mammoth, the beast's mouth was still filled with grass
which had been cropped but not yet chewed.(33) But, despite the
fact that Farrand believes that the evidence does not favor death by
slow freezing, he argues that "the large size of the [mammoths']
warm-blooded bodies is not compatible with sudden
freezing.(34) Sanderson, however, had already shown that only
sudden freezing could account for the unburst cells in the
was that the beasts died suddenly (through asphyxiation) but were
then frozen slowly. Yet, in a reply to one of his critics(36) he
later softened his tone. His new statement was: "Certainly the
death. . . of the frozen mammoths was catastrophic, and they were
frozen in a very short time, geologically speaking-probably in much
less than one year.(37)
Farrand actually meant "accidental." According to him, the mammoths
died "in the warm season. . . when melting and solifluction would
have been at a maximum and, accordingly, locomotion would have been
difficult."" Yet, in the same article, he also stated that "their
broad, four-toed feet. . . were advantageous in marshy pastures.”(39)—(Italics
Now, it has been
pointed out to this writer that the above statements by Farrand do
not constitute a contradiction. Perhaps they do not but it
is strange that so many of these animals lost their footing
precisely in that type of terrain for which "their broad, four-toed
feet. . . were advantageous." Moreover, enough mammoth cadavers
have been found standing in an upright position to dispel all
illusions of their having slipped(40)—unless they happened to
regain their legs after slipping, in which case it would be more
than obvious that they could not have been killed by the fall.
And how can one
account for freezing, sudden or otherwise, in the warmth of
the Arctic summer which, according to Farrand himself, is warm
enough to carpet the tundra with a "relatively luxuriant
vegetation."(41) He states: "It is amazing what 24 hours of
sunshine a day will do!"(“42) How more amazing that the same 24
hours of sunshine a day failed to decompose the dead mammoths which,
if Farrand is right, had to await the return of winter before
commencing to freeze!
The same case can also
be brought to bear against Charles Hapgood. His supposition that
the Berezovka mammoth fell into a fissure created by an earthquake
and that this fissure was eventually eroded into the present
Berezovka valley”(43) seems, at first sight, like a possible
There seems to be no
evidence, however, that the Berezovka valley owes its origin to an
earthquake. Meanwhile, Hapgood's explanation of mammoths being
frozen when, according to his own scheme, Siberia was in the midst
of a hot summer," is, like Farrand's, somewhat contradictory.
Despite all this, an
unsolved problem still remains.
In Worlds in
Velikovsky postulated that the glacial sheet of the last Ice Age was
merely the previous polar cover; that the Ice Age terminated with
catastrophic suddenness when the terrestrial pole shifted. This
moved North America and Europe out of the old polar regions while it
shifted northeastern Siberia into the newly-created (present) Arctic
circle. The ice sheet in North America and Europe began to melt
while the present cold climate gripped the Siberian continent. "It
is assumed here that in historical times neither northeastern
Siberia nor western Alaska were in the polar regions, but that as a
result of the catastrophes of the eighth and seventh centuries
[B.C.] this area moved into that region."(45)
It has, however, been
maintained by some that, contrary to what Velikovsky assumes,
northeastern Siberia was glaciated during the last Ice Age.(46) The
glaciation of northeastern Siberia (east of the Lena) was, however,
of an alpine type and not a continuous ice cover; only the highlands
boasted a few glaciers, while the coastal plain was left free of
ice.(47) This situation being akin to modern-day Switzerland, one
can hardly call it an Ice Age.
Sartansky glaciation (west of the Lena) has been correlated with the
Vaiders advance in North America.(48) According to radiocarbon
dating, this ice sheet was still advancing 11,000 to 10,000 years
ago.(49) But, as Suess and Rubin have shown, a later advance of ice
took place in the western United States only 3300 plus or minus 200
years ago.(50) This last advance, which comes close to Velikovsky's
catastrophe of circa 1500 B.C., has no counterpart in the
The only obstacle to
Velikovsky's assumption seems to be the correlation of the Sartansky and Valders glaciations. If Velikovsky is right, and the
Ice Ages were caused by the shifting of the terrestrial poles, the
Sartansky ice would have advanced when the Valders retreated and/or
vice versa. The correlation of these two sequences is not, however,
as well founded as Russian scientists believe. Farrand's "paradox"
(mentioned earlier) of a northern Siberia which was "warmer than at
present at some period in late glacial time when climates
elsewhere on the earth were cooler than at present (italics added)"
goes deeper than Farrand himself suspected; it completely
contradicts his earlier statement, based on the authority of Saks
and Strelkov,(51) that the Sartansky glaciation was equivalent to
the Valders substage.(52) Actually Farrand's "paradox" squares well
with Velikovsky's postulation that northern Siberia was not
glaciated when North America was.
Now, according to
Velikovsky, it was this catastrophic glaciation of northern Siberia
that was responsible for the death and sudden freezing of the
Siberian mammoths. "It appears that the mammoths, along with other
animals, were killed by a tempest of gases accompanied by a
spontaneous lack of oxygen caused by fires raging high in the
atmosphere. A few instants later their dying and dead bodies were
moving into the polar circle.”(53) "The immediately subsequent
movement of the Siberian continent into the polar region is
probably responsible for the preservation of the corpses.”(54) As a
matter of fact, the majority of the mammoths found frozen in Siberia
did come from within the Arctic circle with only a few
scattered just outside .(55)
Worlds in Collision, Velikovsky also expresses some uncertainty
concerning the actual date of extermination. "A problem the
archaeologists will have to solve is that of clarifying whether the
extermination of life in these regions... resulting in the death
of mammoths, took place in the eighth and seventh or fifteenth
century before the present era (or earlier)."(56)
Here I must quibble.
According to the hypothesis presented above, Siberia must have
warmed up when, 3300 years ago, the ice advanced in North America.
If killed and frozen earlier, the mammoths would have had ample
time to thaw and decompose completely. If killed then, they could
not have been frozen. Velikovsky himself has stated that "the
ground must have been frozen ever since the day of [the
mammoths'] entombment (italics added)."(57) He even quoted Dana
(58) who wrote: ". . . the cold became suddenly extreme.
and knew no relenting afterward (second italics only
added).”(59) On the evidence that Velikovsky himself presented—and
see also his Earth in Upheaval “(60)—we are forced to assume
that the mammoths could only have been killed and frozen during the
last cataclysm, that of the eighth/seventh century B.C.
Here is where the problem lies.
Radiocarbon dating of
the Siberian mammoths does not confirm extermination in the
eighth/seventh century B.C. Nor does it corroborate annihilation in
or anywhere around 1500 B.C. Even if we were to bring into the
picture Velikovsky's earlier catastrophe of the Deluge, which he
dates at "between five and ten thousand years ago,"(61) the Siberian
mammoths, according to radiocarbon dating, would still be far too
The Lena delta mammoth
was dated by the Yale radiocarbon laboratory (Y-633) as more than
30,000 years old." Mammoth tissue from the Pyasina River in the
Taymyr Peninsula gave an age of 25,100 plus or minus 550 years,
placing the time of death somewhere in or near 23,150 B C.(63)
To this we can add, by
way of confirmatory evidence, the skin and flesh of a baby mammoth
from Fairbanks Creek, Alaska, which was submitted to the Lamont
radiocarbon laboratory by none other than William Farrand himself.
Although this specimen was judged contaminated by modern carbon, the
age was calculated at 21,300 plus or minus 1300 years.
Contamination, in this instance, would render that date as
Now I am well aware
that there is good evidence to suppose that the Siberian mammoth was
still being hunted by Advanced Paleolithic peoples in the Lake
Baikal area as late as 9,000 years ago. (65) For that matter, a
mammoth tusk from a site in Bavaria, Germany, was dated (on the
basis of an average of three separate dates) as having ended its
life somewhere around 1900 B C.(66) But I am not here concerned,
nor am I debating, Velikovsky's claim for the mammoths' late
survival. The problem only concerns frozen specimens and the date
(or dates) of their extermination and subsequent entombment in
At this point, it
would be prudent to keep Professor Lynn Rose's admonition in mind,
namely that we cannot, at present, be sure that there has been no
"pre-publication discarding" of mammoth test results that were
"incompatible with uniformitarianism.”(67) Rose also warned that
"radiocarbon dating of events prior to twenty-seven centuries ago
[cannot] be applied to Velikovsky without begging the very questions
at issue."(68) I am well aware of the implications.
instance, has stated that during the catastrophes of the
eighth/seventh centuries B.C., world-wide pollution of the
terrestrial atmosphere by "dead" carbon from volcanic eruptions,
meteoric dust, etc., would have made all organic matter in the
decades that followed appear much older when dated by the C14
method." But, we ask, by as much as 29,000 years?
Even if so, a
dilemma still remains.
Dr. Euan MacKie had
some comments to make concerning Rose's remarks. His opinion is
that C14 can be used as a relative dating technique.(70)
This is also Velikovsky's contention: "For the period before -500,
only comparative tests can serve profitably for the solution of the
chronological problems.(71) But even this fails to alleviate the
problem at hand.
If C14 fluctuations
caused by cosmic catastrophes were uniform all over the world (a
highly improbable occurrence), we are left with a difference of some
7,400 years between the death of the Lena delta mammoth and the
Fairbanks Creek specimen. If, what is more likely, such C14
fluctuations varied in separate areas, we are still left with a
difference of some 4,300 years between the Pyasina River mammoth
from the Taymyr Peninsula and the Lena delta specimen. (There is
less than 800 miles between the Pyasina River and the Lena delta
On the basis of these
calculations one is forced to assume that the mammoths in question
could not have been the victims of the same cataclysm. On the other
hand, if this is correct, the older mammoth(s) would have thawed and
decomposed in the interim, since Siberia would have had to shift to
a warmer climate before its next freezing onslaught on the younger
mammoth(s). And there lies the dilemma because, after all,
we know that at least one of the older mammoths, the Lena delta
specimen, did not decompose in the interim.
Naturally, if we were
to assume that the mammoths are younger by thousands of years
than the C14 method shows, the difference in years between their
widely divergent ages would also be drastically reduced. The thing
to do, of course, is to await further tests. But meanwhile and with
the little evidence we have at hand, the problem cannot thus be
The author is indebted
to Ray Vaughan for the clarification of certain dubious items with
which this paper was originally burdened.
Cohen, "Those Mysterious woolly Mammoths," in the January 1970 issue
of Science Digest, pp. 46-47; Idem., The Age of Giant
Mammals (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1969).
2. Ivan T.
Sanderson, "Riddle of the Frozen Giants," in the January 16, 1960
issue of The Saturday Evening Post, p. 82.
3. Idem., "More Things," chapter 8, Frozen
Mammoths (Pyramid, 1969), p. 109.
4. Charles Hapgood, The Path of the Pole (New York,
1970), p. 259.
Schuchert and Carl O. Dunbar, Outlines of Historical Geology
(John Wiley & Sons; New York, 1947), p. 37.
6. William R.
Farrand, "Frozen Mammoths and Modem Geology," in the March 17, 1961
issue of Science (Volume 133, n. 3455), p. 731.
7. Ibid., P. 731 and Fig. 2, p. 732.
8. Ibid., p. 733.
Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (Doubleday & Company; New
York, 1950), p. 24; Idem., Earth in Upheaval (Doubleday &
Company; New York, 1955), p. 4; Ivan T. Sanderson, op. cit.,
10. William R. Farrand, op. cit., p. 733.
11. O. F. Herz,
"Frozen Mammoth in Siberia," in the Smithsonian Institution
Annual Report, 1903, pp. 611-625.
12. I. P.
Tolmachoff, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,
23 (1929), p. 60.
13. Charles Hapgood, op. cit., p. 261.
13a. Herz, loc.
14. William R. Farrand, op. cit., p. 734.
15. Lydekker, as quoted by Hapgood, op. cit., p. 260.
16. lbid, p. 261.
18. I. P. Tolmachoff, op. cit., p. 60.
19. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, (see note n. 9),
20. R. F. Flint,
Glacial and Pleistocene Geology (Wiley; New York, 1957), p.
470; Lydekker, Smithsonian Reports for 1899, pp. 361-366; D.
Gath Whitley, "The Ivory Islands in the Arctic Ocean," in the
Journal of the Philosophical Society of Great Britain,
XII (1910), pp. 41, 50; "Mammoth Jawbones Used in Ancient Russian
Houses" and "Mammoth Cemetry in Siberia," both in the June 1972
issue of Science Digest, pp. 23-24 and 79-80; "The Glaciated
Grave of the Mammoth in Siberia," in the November 1916 issue of
current Opinion, p. 330; J. Jelinek, The Pictorial Encyclopedia
of the Evolution of Man (Hamlyn; London, 1975), pp. 236-253 and
21. Velikovsky, Earth in Upheaval, (see note n. 9), p.
22. Lydekker, op. cit., pp. 361-366.
23. Charles Schuchert and Carl 0. Dunbar, op. cit., p.
24. William R. Farrand, op. cit., pp. 729ff. (See
references to Farrand's note n. 4.)
25. Ibid., p. 729.
26. Ibid., Table 1, p. 731.
27. Ibid., p. 730. (Note: Farrand's own quote is from
A. Heintz, Blyttia, 16, 122 (1958).)
29. L. S.
Quackenbush, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History,
26, 107, (1909).
31. William R. Faffand, op. cit., p. 733
32. Ibid., p. 734.
33. "The New
Mammoth at St. Petersburg," in the July 30, 1903 issue of Nature,
34. William R. Farrand, op. cit., p. 733.
35. Ivan T.
Sanderson, "Riddle of the Frozen Giants," (see note n. 2); Idem.,
"The Riddle of the Quick-Frozen Mammoths," in the April 1960
issue of Reader's Digest, pp. 168-176; Idem., "More
Things," (see note n. 3), pp. 103-116.
36. "Letters," in the August 10, 1962 issue of Science,
(Volume 137), pp. 450-452.
37. Ibid., p. 451.
38. William R. Faffand, op. cit., p. 734.
40. Henry H.
Howorth, "The Mammoth and the Flood," in the January 26, 1888 issue
of Nature, p. 295.
41. "Letters," (see note n. 36), p. 451.
43. Charles Hapgood, op. cit., pp. 270-271.
44. Ibid., p. 261.
45. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, (see note n. 9),
46. E. J. Opik,
"The Ice Ages," in The Irish Astronomical journal, Volume 2,
n. 3 (1952), pp. 71-84, reprinted in Adventures in Earth History
(edited by Preston Cloud, W. H. Freeman & Company; San
Francisco, 1970), p. 870; William R. Farrand, op. cit., p.
732. See also Fig. 2 on same page.
47. A. P.
Vaskovsky in Ice Age in the European Section of USSR and in
Siberia (edited by K. K. Markov and A. 1. Popov, State
Lomonsov University of Moscow, 1959), p. 512, Fig. 1; William
R. Farrand, op. cit., p. 732.
48. V. N. Saks
and S.A. Strelkov, "Quaternary Deposits of the Soviet Arctic," in
the Transactions of the Arctic Geological Research Institute of
Moscow, 91, 221 (1959)—(in Russian) —cited by W. R. Farrand,
op. cit., p. 733. (See Farrand's note n. 22.)
49. Willard F.
Libby, "Radiocarbon Dating," in Science (Volume 133), pp.
621-629 (1961), reprinted in Adventures in Earth History,
(see note n. 46), p. 185.
50. Hans E. Suess,
"U.S. Geological Surey Radiocarbon Dates I," in the September 24, 1954
issue of Science (Volume 120), pp.. 471, 472; Meyer Rubin and
Hans E. Suess, "U.S. Geological Survey Radiocarbon Dates II," in the
April 8. 1955 issue of Science (Volume 121), pp. 481, 486.
51. William R.
Farrand, op. cit., p. 733.
52. V. N. Saks and
S. A. Strelkov, op. cit.
53. Velikovsky, W
in C, op. cit., pp. 326-327.
54. Ibid., p.
55. William R.
Farrand, op. cit., p. 731 and Fig. 2 on p. 732
Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 329.
57. Idem., Earth
in Upheaval, (see note n. 9), p. 4.
58. Ibid., p.
59. J. D. Dana,
Manual of Geology (4th edition), 1894, p. 1007.
Velikovsky, E in U'op. cit., pp. 154-172 and elsewhere in
the same work.
"The Pitfalls of Radiocarbon Dating," in the Spring-Summer, 1973 issue
of Pensee, p. 13.
62. "Lamont Natural
Radiocarbon Measurements Vil," in Radiocarbon, 1961, p. 165.
Dates of the Institute of Archaeology II," in Radiocarbon, 1970,
64. "Lamont Natural
Radiocarbon Measurements VII," (see note n. 62), p. 165.
65. J. B. Griffin,
Science (Volume 13 1), 1960, p. 802.
66. "University of
Kiel Radiocarbon Measurements Vll," in Radiocarbon, Volume 15, n.
1, p. 114.
67. Lynn E. Rose,
"The Logic of Theory Testing: Some Criticisms of Mackie," in the Fall,
1973 issue of Pensee, p. 34.
69. Velikovsky, "Pitfalls of Radiocarbon Dating," op. cit.,
70. Euan MacKie,
"Dr. Mackie Replies" (to Lynn E. Rose), in the Fall, 1973 issue of
Pensee, p. 35.
71. Velikovsky, "Pitfalls. . .," op. cit., p. 50.