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KRONOS     Winter 1975

The Problem of The Frozen Mammoths
Dwardu Cardona

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 frozen.(19)

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 mammoth cadavers.(35)

Farrand's conclusion 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)

By "catastrophic" 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 added).

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 solution.

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 Collision, 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.

Meanwhile, the 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 Russian sequence.

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)

Nevertheless, in 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 old.

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 minimum.(64)

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 frozen muck.

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.

Velikovsky, for 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 sites.)

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 resolved.


The author is indebted to Ray Vaughan for the clarification of certain dubious items with which this paper was originally burdened.


1.    Daniel 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.

5.    Charles 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.

9.    Immanuel 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., p. 103.

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. cit.

14.       William R. Farrand, op. cit., p. 734.

15.       Lydekker, as quoted by Hapgood, op. cit., p. 260.

16.       lbid, p. 261.

17.       Ibid.

18.       I. P. Tolmachoff, op. cit., p. 60.

19.       Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, (see note n. 9), pp. 326-327.

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 elsewhere.

21.       Velikovsky, Earth in Upheaval, (see note n. 9), p. 4.

22.       Lydekker, op. cit., pp. 361-366.

23.       Charles Schuchert and Carl 0. Dunbar, op. cit., p. 34.

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).)

28.       Ibid.

29.       L. S. Quackenbush, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 26, 107, (1909).

30.       Ibid.

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, pp. 297-298.

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.

39.       Ibid.

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.

42.       Ibid.

43.       Charles Hapgood, op. cit., pp. 270-271.

44.       Ibid., p. 261.

45.       Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, (see note n. 9), p. 327.

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. 326.

55.       William R. Farrand, op. cit., p. 731 and Fig. 2 on p. 732

56.       Immanuel Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 329.

57.       Idem., Earth in Upheaval, (see note n. 9), p. 4.

58.       Ibid., p. 6.

59.       J. D. Dana, Manual of Geology (4th edition), 1894, p. 1007.

60.       Immanuel Velikovsky, E in U'op. cit., pp. 154-172 and elsewhere in the same work.

61.       Idem., "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.

63.       "Radiocarbon Dates of the Institute of Archaeology II," in Radiocarbon, 1970, p. 149.

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.

68.       Ibid.

69.       Velikovsky, "Pitfalls of Radiocarbon Dating," op. cit., p. 13.

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.

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