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Open letter to science editors
KRONOS Vol. I, Issue 4
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
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 -deflesh" 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 [have] speedily deteriorate[d] 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
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
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 exterinination 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 C- 14 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 C-14 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 C- 14 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 C-14
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 C- 14 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 &
2. Ivan T. Sanderson, "Riddle of the Frozen Giants," in the January 16, 1960 issue of The
"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.
P. 731 and Fig. 2, p. 732.
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.,
10. William R. Farrand, op. cit.,
11. O. F. Herz, "Frozen Mammoth in Siberia," in the Smithsonian Institution Annual
1903, pp. 611-625.
12. I. P. Tolmachoff, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,
23 (1929), p.
13. Charles Hapgood, op. cit.,
13a. Herz, loc. cit.
14. William R. Farrand, op. cit.,
15. Lydekker, as quoted by Hapgood, op. cit.,
18. I. P. Tolmachoff, op. cit.,
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
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,
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.,
23. Charles Schuchert and Carl 0. Dunbar, op. cit.,
24. William R. Farrand, op. cit.,
pp. 729ff. (See references to Farrand's note n. 4.)
Table 1, p. 731.
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,
31. William R. Faffand, op. cit.,
33. "The New Mammoth at St. Petersburg," in the July 30, 1903 issue of Nature,
34. William R. Farrand, op. cit.,
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,
"More Things," (see note n. 3), pp. 103-116.
36. "Letters," in the August 10, 1962 issue of Science,
(Volume 137), pp. 450-452.
38. William R. Faffand, op. cit.,
40. Henry H. Howorth, "The Mammoth and the Flood," in the January 26, 1888 issue of
41. "Letters," (see note n. 36), p. 451.
43. Charles Hapgood, op. cit.,
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
by K. K. Markov and A. 1. Popov, State
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.
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
121), pp. 481, 486.
51. William R. Farrand, op. cit.,
52. V. N. Saks and S. A. Strelkov, op. cit.
53. Velikovsky, W in C, op. cit.,
55. William R. Farrand, op. cit.,
p. 731 and Fig. 2 on p. 732
56. Immanuel Velikovsky, op. cit.,
57. Idem., Earth in Upheaval,
(see note n. 9), p. 4.
59. J. D. Dana, Manual of Geology
(4th edition), 1894, p. 1007.
60. Immanuel Velikovsky, E in
pp. 154-172 and elsewhere in the same work.
"The Pitfalls of Radiocarbon Dating," in the Spring-Summer, 1973 issue of Pensee,
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.
67. Lynn E. Rose, "The Logic of Theory Testing: Some Criticisms of Mackie," in the Fall, 1973
issue of Pensee,
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,
71. Velikovsky, "Pitfalls. . .," op. cit.,