s Woolly Mammoth - icon of the Ice Age (part 2) - Hull Museums Collections

Woolly Mammoth - icon of the Ice Age (part 2)

mammoth tooth


In the last ice age the Woolly mammoth was a successful species which roamed throughout the northern sub-arctic tundra regions, from Britain to Siberia; through Europe, Asia and North America. However despite their once large number and numerous adaptations they have since become extinct; it is likely that a combination of events brought about its end.

Over Hunting

Mammoth's were extensively hunted by our ancestors; their large size and relatively slow speed made them easy targets for the skilled nomadic hunters who preyed on them. Mammoth remains have been uncovered with early hunting tools beside them, and bones show evidence of butchery.

Their flesh provided food, their huge skins supplied hunters with material for clothing, and furthermore their bones could be carved for tools, musical instruments, jewellery, and combs, evidence even suggests that the mammoth's huge bones could have been used in the construction of huts.


When humans first came into contact with woolly mammoths they may well have introduced new bacteria and diseases to which the mammoth had no immunity. The fleas, ticks and lice that our ancestors and their domesticated animals brought with them could easily have passed on deadly bacteria to the mammoth, and from there it could pass through the herd killing many animals in a short amount of time.

Environmental change

12,000-10,000 years ago the ice age began to thaw and the mammoth's natural sub-tundra habitat and food sources began to disappear. During this period thousands of large mammals found themselves in an unfamiliar climate and became extinct, including many camels, horses, bears, sabre-toothed cats, the giant rat, and the woolly rhino.

The fossil records show that woollies disappeared from Britain and most of the globe in this period. However, discoveries made in 1993 on Wrangel Island off the coast of Siberia, suggested that a dwarf variety, no taller than 2 metres high existed, clinging to a final cold corner of the globe until as little as 4,000 years ago.

Back from the dead?

Whatever it was that brought about the extinction of the woollies, they are no longer with us. However some scientists are keen to change this and hope to revive the beast through DNA recovered in the animals frozen remains. They hope to successfully breed a mammoth using the egg of its closet living relative the Asian elephant, possibly producing a creature that is 88% mammoth within 50 years.

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