Mammoths: Ice Age Giants

Who doesn’t love a woolly mammoth? They look like cuddly elephants (on that note, you can buy cuddly mammoths in the shop). Working with Kids in Museums has given me an extra fondness for these be-haired behemoths, so how could I resist popping along to the Natural History Museum to see an exhibition all about these Ice Age Giants?

Before I get going with this, you might have seen this exhibition before. It is a travelling one from the Field Museum in Chicago and it has already been to quite a few places. However, it’s brand new to me, so here it goes.

Mammoth skeleton, with tusks

Mammoth skeleton, with tusks

Although we start our adventure following in the over-sized prints of the largest mammals to ever walk the earth on a somewhat ominous footing, with a skeleton gazing forlornly up at you, this exhibition is remarkably child friendly. I’m sure Kids in Museums would thoroughly approve of it. So many things allowed for hands-on exploration of the topic.

You could touch the trunks of mamoths, mastodons and elephants to really get a sense of them. There were also lots of games that wouldn’t look out of place at the seaside arcades that really helped get your head around how to pick up food with a trunk.

Yes, I tried them all.

The exhibition is called Ice Age Giants, but it’s hard to anticipate just how gigantic these creatures were. Luckily photographs were allowed, so here are some pictures to help give you a sense of everything.

A Mammoth

A Mammoth

An ice age lion with a mammoth in the background

An ice age lion with a mammoth in the background

A giant bear-like creature

A giant bear-like creature

Here’s a picture with a human, just so you can get a sense of the sheer scale of these things.

A mammoth (with human for scale)

A mammoth (with human for scale)

Alas, these are only models of the real thing. This would usually leave me feeling a bit lacking – the child in me wants to see an actual mammoth.

Luckily, there’s Lyuba (say itΒ Loo-ba,Β it means Love in Russian apparently). Lyuba is the most complete woolly mammoth ever found and she is 42,000. Far from being a GIANT, Lyuba is only a baby. She has been remarkably preserved due to her tragic death. Drowning in mud doesn’t make for a pleasant end, but it has meant that she is of immense scientific value. It’s not much compensation, but at least her death wasn’t in vain.

Lyuba is what is known as a Protected Cultural Object. Usually she lives in the Shemanovsky Museum – Exhibition Complex in Salekhard, in Russia. Unfortunately, you can’t take a picture of her (nor can you buy a postcard of her, grr).

Different types of mammoth

Different types of mammoth

Although the exhibition was aimed at kids, I feel like I learned *loads*.

Did you know…

Mammoths and mastodons aren’t ancestors of the elephants. They are related, as they all belong to the family Elephantidae, but they’re more like distant cousins.

Mammoths didn’t all live in snowy conditions. Although many have been found in Russia and Siberia, those areas weren’t as cold during the Ice Age.

Early man hunted mammoths, but not necessarily to extinction, lots of other factors were involved…

Trees might have played a part in the extinction of the mammoths. As temperatures rose, forests spread. This meant that mammoths’ grassland habitat disappeared under a canopy of trees.

Mammoths were fond of eating buttercups?!

Mammoths: Ice Age Giants is a charming exhibition, and if you fancy seeing it, it’s on at the Natural History Museum until 7th September.

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