A4. Mammoths: Were They QuickFrozen?
The claim that mammoths were quickfrozen goes back at least several decades as an old Reader’s Digest article will testify. It has no merit whatsoever.
To begin with, mammoths were adapted for severely cold weather as their heavy fur, complete with a thick, insulating underwool, and a thick layer of fat attest. Their fourtoed feet and smaller size, compared to the European mammoths, was better for marshy tundra pasture. A little extra ice from space, assuming that it could even reach the ground without being vaporized, would hardly have bothered them! Obviously, the Arctic area was cold, though possibly a tad warmer and moist than today, before Dr. Hovind’s icebergfromspace arrived!
Take the frozen Berezovka mammoth, for instance. In its stomach were found arctic plants like conifers, tundra grasses, and sedges. Its flesh was really rather putrefied. "The excavators found the stench of the partially rotted Berezovka mammoth unbearable; even the earth in which it was buried stank." (Weber, 1980, p.15). Ancient predators had a chance to get at the carcass, which proved there was no instantaneous freezing. The unfortunate animal seems to have fallen from a river buff, possibly by getting too close to the edge and causing a slump, and broke many bones. In the muck of the floodplain below his carcass was soon frozen in (Strahler, 1987, p.381).
William R. Farrand, writing in 1961, pointed out that only 39 mammoths had been found with some of their flesh preserved. Out of those only four were found more or less intact, including the Berezovka mammoth. All of them were rotten to some extent and the evidence showed that most were somewhat mutilated by predators prior to freezing. Such things as grasses, sedges, other boreal meadow and tundra plants, a few twigs, cones, and pollen traces from highboreal and tundra trees are typical of what was found in their stomachs. Evidence indicates that some of these mammoths had died in cave-ins or had drowned. The Mamontova mammoth was probably caught in a bog while grazing the floodplain of the ancient Mamontova River. Another apparently died on a floodplain, possibly falling through river ice, and rotted mostly away before natural burial. The upright nature of many mammoth finds suggest "that they perished when a rapid thaw melted the permafrost and turned the tundra into a huge bog." (Chorlton, 1984, p.70).
A more recent find, that of a calf dated at about 40,000 years, was retrieved whole in 1977 from a creek bed in eastern Siberia. Apparently it had fallen through a thin layer of frozen turf into a channel cut by melting water. Evidence, sorry to say, indicates that the animal starved to death. The hole was soon filled in and the mammoth was preserved for thousands of years by the cold and by a high tannic acid content from decayed vegetation. Eventually a shifting channel of a river exposed the mammoth. (Chorlton, 1984, p.71)
Getting bogged down in a marsh, falling into "riparian" gullies, getting mired in sticky mudflows, falling through the thin ice of a lake, and getting caught in river bank caveins of river ice are some of the hazards mammoths would face. Judging by what they were eating, it appears that the time of death was usually late summer or early fall, precisely the time when melting and solifluction would have been at a maximum and travel most dangerous. Most of their remains are associated with river valleys and fluviatile and terrestrial sediment. There is no direct evidence that any mammoth simply froze to death (Farrand, 1961).
All of this evidence points to a routine scenario of life and death.
It is interesting to note that only the mammoths and wooly rhinoceri are found frozen in Siberia (Weber, 1980, pp.15-16). If a sudden disaster overwhelmed the entire area, don’t you think that we would find a whole range of preserved animals?
Dr. Hovind, I think that you have been had by that fellow on the North Slope. I doubt very much that he choked down a piece of putrid mammoth meat! It’s probably a favorite tall-timber tale of the North.