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Open letter to science editors





To the Editor of KRONOS:

May one whose name was mentioned several times in a letter to your journal,(1) about the Frozen Mammoth Controversy, reply to the points made in that letter?

[Leroy] Ellenberger remains unconvinced that mammoths were able to tolerate extreme cold, and his argument rests heavily on Neuville's observation that the skin of these creatures lacked certain "oil-glands" and on John White's sweeping statement that such glands are possessed by every extant arctic animal.(2) The modern arctic fauna are a diverse grouping including not only those accustomed to aquatic or semi-aquatic conditions (cod, whales, seals, polar bear, eider duck), but others able to tolerate an extremely cold, though mainly dry environment (musk ox, caribou, arctic hare, arctic fox, lemming, ptarmigan).(3) White's rash generalization does not encompass every arctic animal, above, and should not debar the mammoth from this distinguished company! Conversely, the glands concerned are found in a great many decidedly non-arctic animals and what, here, is their function? Prominent among these gland-bearers is the rhinoceros (all five extant species of which have a tropical/sub-tropical distribution, whereas elephants, which lack the notorious glands, occupy similar regions) ;(4) is it maintained that the skin of the woolly rhinoceros (a contemporary of the woolly mammoth and whose bones often accompany it in fossil assemblages) was not equipped as in its modern relatives? Possession of the requisite oil glands admits this animal to the arctic fraternity unopposed but re-imposes and reinforces the problem of extinction, since frozen rhinoceros carcasses occur in the permafrost coeval with mammoth.

Much is made also of comparing the wool and hair coat of the mammoth with the fur of the tiger, a "tropical" creature. The tiger is a bad choice of example for it is a generalised predator, whose ecological niche is determined not by climate but by source of prey. Thus, tigers (and lions, bears, wolves, wolverines, etc.) are adapted to no particular climate and are able to operate over a range of environments, including extremely cold conditions (witness the race of tiger active in the snows of Siberia, etc.). Constraints upon potential regions to be occupied by these predators are less those of temperature than the interference of man and the provision of an adequate supply of suitably sized game animals to be hunted to meet energy needs ("metabolic rate, more than fat, keeps an animal warm" - Ellenberger). It remains a fact that, when mammoths are encountered in an archaeological deposit their remains are, almost invariably, associated with those of other species now characteristic of the Arctic circle.(5) Prehistorians are accustomed to employing such faunal assemblages (including mammoth) as evidence that glaciation prevailed. Ellenberger, who does not accept the mammoth as an arctic animal, must account for the absence of temperate species (e.g., straight-tusked elephant, deer, wild cattle) preserved in a deep-frozen state.

To respond to my namesake's other contentions, as presented by Ellenberger:

1) We have no knowledge of tundra vegetational coverage in former times but today the plant biomass in the tundra regions supports a large population of caribou.(6) It may be interesting to speculate whether, in the past, the increase in numbers of these tundra-browsers was at the expense of the mammoth (unfavorable fluctuations in the availability of food being one of the classic causes suggested for the extinction of the latter!). Short-term famines need not have been disastrous, for the mammoth had recourse to nutritional reserves in the form of the well-known fatty humps, on head and neck, held to be analogous to the food-storage mechanisms of camels.(7) Ellenberger says that "fat chiefly attests to an ample food supply"; one should like to know whether the fatty tissue of the mammoth was of constant thickness or varied with season, being a reserve laid down during the summer months against the vicissitudes of the arctic winter, as in the musk ox.(8)

2) Mammoths with stomachs preserved intact are too few in number for firm conclusions about season of death to be drawn from analysis of the gastric contents. Except in the instance of the individual from the Beresovka River (wherein the presence of both flowers and seeds in the stomach suggested death in Fall), for the range of food evident runs from the mosses and lichens of the high Arctic barrens through the meadow sedges and grasses of the steppe to the leaves of the coniferous trees and arctic willows of the Taiga(9) - foods which may be considered as being independent of season.

3) That death occurred in a warm season remains to be proved (see above), and anyway warm is a relative term when applied to the summer of Alaska or Siberia! A fall into the chilled melt-waters from a glacier, even in summer, would account for the observations made, for, as I have pointed out elsewhere,(10) preservation of mammoth carcasses is never as complete as claimed (even the much-vaunted Beresovka specimen was not spared considerable decay). Ellenberger's assertion that "the carcasses that are preserved whole froze quickly enough to prevent their putrefaction, and being eaten by scavengers" fails to meet the observed facts. The contrary view, that the cadavers froze slowly, does not stem solely from the paper by the geologist Farrand (anathema to Ellenberger), for further contributions have been made by distinguished palaeontologists and biochemists and these prove that each beast was assaulted from both within and without before freezing became complete. Thus, frozen mammoth carcasses do show evidence of mutilation by predators in antiquity and as they thaw out they, and the surrounding soil, emit an odour characteristic of decomposition.(11) Most mammoths are encountered dismembered and partially decomposed; and despite the superficially fresh appearance that the exposed, thawed flesh is said to possess, most of the tissues, upon histological section, reveal cellular disruption consistent with putrefactive degradation.(12) Moreover, putrefaction in antiquity, before the animal became completely frozen is sometimes so extensive that much of the flesh is replaced, one-for-one, by the mycelium of the bacteria responsible for putrefactive decay,(13) and even the hair, when examined chromatographically, shows chemical degradation through antique proteolysis by putrefactive enzymes.(14)

Of course the time of onset of post-mortem decomposition is variable and, inter alia, a function of temperature, the micro-organisms of decay being less active at low temperatures such as those prevailing in the "warm" Siberian and Alaskan conditions postulated by Sanderson.(15) It should be noted here, also, that drowned animals are especially subject to a bizarre form of preservation by the formation of adipocere and at least one writer has elicited evidence for the survival of tissues of the mammoth through the intermediacy of adipocere protection.(16) Whatever the role of the fat of the mammoth in body temperature maintenance it certainly represents a predisposition to spontaneous preservation by the putrefactive transformation of the adipose tissue into stable adipocere.(17) Once freezing has become well established in a corpse a further preservative mechanism comes into play as a consequence of crystals of ice being deposited in the extracellular spaces. The removal of body water as ice retards decay, since dehydration is a factor even more effective than low temperatures in preventing the multiplication of putrefactive bacteria!

The occurrence of preserved stomach contents (of inestimable value in elucidation of diet but of questionable relevance to the deduction of season of death - see above) should not be offered as proof of sudden death and instantaneous freezing. Presence of food in the stomach of a corpse proves merely that feeding had occurred within a matter of hours before death, the normal mechanisms of stomach-emptying being of greater relevance, here, than the efficiency of gastric secretion. It is probably true, as Ellenberger surmises, that digestive processes cease at death for remains of terminal meals are found in the stomachs of corpses preserved by methods other than freezing, for example, in bog burials,(18) Chinese mummies, etc.(19)

Ellenberger, White, et al. choose to ignore the findings of the young but powerful science of taphonomy - the study of all the processes that are gone through from the moment that an animal starts to die up until its remains are finally embedded in a geological stratum.(20) This approach has demonstrated amply that, where remains are sufficiently well preserved for cause of death to be established, mammoth mortality was not the result of a disastrous temperature change but of asphyxia (21) (drowning in an icy stream, suffocation upon being buried by a landslide, etc.). It also provides an explanation (lacking in catastrophism - wherein at least equal representation by other animal species in a deep-frozen state is to be expected) why it is usually the giant mammals of the Pleistocene (woolly rhinoceros and mammoth) which are preserved in the permafrost, rather than their more agile contemporaries better able to swim or struggle to safety.(22)

It is to be hoped that Neuville's argument based on the sebaceous gland, by which Ellenberger and White set such store, will be seen for the red herring it is. Instead, greater importance ought to be attached to the statistical problems involved: out of an enormous mammoth population only about 50 frozen specimens are known and, of these, only one tenth come near to justifying the description "intact" - said to be of the order expected for chance burial.(23)

"Unless and until" (to paraphrase Ellenberger) the suspiciously small sample size, absence of temperate species, and deficiency of small animals represented is explained in terms more compelling than accidental burial, the Sanderson/White/Ellenberger school of fantasy is merely so much catastrophist wishful thinking.(24) It is sobering that the government-funded expedition (under the auspices of the Soviet Academy of Sciences) which set off ten years ago to boldly go and search systematically for frozen mammoths in the Siberian permafrost has failed, so far, to deliver the goods. Ironically the famous "Dima", the only example to turn up in the interim, was found quite by accident (just like the others). Dr. Vereshchagin, who has studied this latest specimen in Leningrad, revealed on British TV recently that "Dima" seemed to have suffered a spear wound in the leg and therefore probably died of starvation after its lactating mother had been killed by hunters. The importance of freezing as a factor in the survival of ancient cadavers is often over-emphasised.(25) So far as the almost insignificant numbers of "intact" mammoths are concerned, the observed facts are accounted for chiefly by suffocation, embedding, adipocere formation and slow freezing and/or freeze-drying(26) - not necessarily in that order. Thus, Ellenberger's conclusion: "that a sudden drastic change in climate occurred is almost certain" cannot be held to be valid if the evidence for it is limited to the dubious testimony of the woolly mammoth.

William White

Bucks, England


1. L. Ellenberger, KRONOS V:4 (Summer 1980), pp.94-7.
2. Ibid., p.95.
3. R. W. May, Nature, 281 (1979), pp. 177-8.
4. M. L. Ryder, Nature, 249 (1974), pp. 190-2.
5. Morphological features which, like the multiple pelt and fat layers, reflect adaptation to extreme cold have been seen in the small size of the ears (and possibly the trunk). In the mammoth these present a relatively smaller surface-area than in modern elephants, so as to reduce heat loss - B. Kurten, Pleistocene Mammals of Europe (London,1968), p. 137. Ryder (pp. 191-2) in his microscopic examination of mammoth skin adduced evidence that the hair was shed, annually (at the end of Winter); moreover he dismisses the notion of the (missing) oil glands being indispensable in a cold climate while he remains bothered by the apparent absence of advantageous hair erector muscles. The presence of the latter structures, however, might well be masked by the inevitable putrefactive changes, described in the text.
6. 2nd International Reindeer/Caribou Symposium: Norway (1979); reported in Nature, 282, pp.558-9.
7. B. Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals (N. Y., 1959), p. 346. 8. Kurten, p. 139.
9. Heuvelmans, p. 350; J. K. Little, New Scientist (6 December 1979), p. 816.
10. W. White, New Scientist (14 June 1979), p. 939; Ibid. (18 October 1979), pp. 215-6.
11. E. Thenius, Fossils and the Life of the Past (London and Heidelberg, 1973), pp. 19-20; J. M. Gillespie, Science, 170 ( 1970), pp. 1100-1102 .
12. M. R. Zimmerman, R. H. Tedford, Science, 194 (1976), pp. 183-4.
13. Ibid., p.183.
14. Gillespie, p. 1101. 15. See Ellenberger's reference 7 (p. 97).
16. W. E. D. Evans, The Chemistry of Death (Springfield, 1963), p. 51.
17. C. J. Polson, D. J. Gee, The Essentials of Forensic Medicine (Oxford, 1973), p. 28.
18. P. V. Glob, The Bog People: Iron Age Man Preserved (London, 1969), pp. 30 & 42.
19. O. Wei, The Lancet, Vol. 2:7639 (1973), p. 1198.
20. Thenius, p. 28. 21. Ibid., p.19.
22. W. R. Farrand, Science, 133 (1961), pp. 729-735.
23. Farrand, p. 733; Thenius, p. 18.
24. Sanderson's "absolutely countless numbers" of mammoth is a smoke screen which cannot be used to refer to the frozen specimens though it may be applicable to tusk caches, spanning some 40,000 years, and to preserved mammoth hair - so thick on the ground, in places, as to have been of nuisance value to gold prospectors! (Kurten, p. 138.)
25. W. White, The London Archaeologist, Vol. 3:10 (Spring 1979), p. 274.
26. T. L. Pewe, N. R. Rivard, Science, 130 (1959), p. 716; G. G. Claridge, Nature, 190 (1961), p. 559.

C. Leroy Ellenberger Replies:

Mr. White's critique [sent via Dickinson, Texas(1)] of my comments on the demise of the mammoth,(2) persuasive though it may seem at first reading, does not survive close scrutiny. Most of it is either equivocal, irrelevant or wrong. Showing that uniformitarian principles can explain the disposition of some mammoth remains does not rule out a catastrophic scenario so long as critical pieces of the puzzle are ignored or dismissed out of hand.

Only two of White's corrections are unarguably valid: (1) Of course sebaceous glands are not possessed by every extant arctic animal. I should have said every extant arctic land mammal. (2) Neuville's argument based on the sebaceous gland, by itself, is a red herring; but the case for the mammoth's adaptation to extreme cold is, as will be shown, circumstantial, if not illusory.


After examining much of the English-language literature on the mammoth,(3) it is clear that the uniformitarian explanations for the preservation of adults, such as the Beresovka specimen, whose bodies have been recovered more or less whole from the Siberian permafrost, have been developed without thoroughly considering either the implications or alternatives. This is immediately evident from considering present day caribou. When caribou die in the arctic in winter, their stomachs swell and decompose just as though it were summer because their pelage is such an excellent insulator.(4)

The situation for the larger adult mammoth would be even worse if its pelage were anywhere near as good an insulator. Yet, after dying, the stomach of the Beresovka mammoth did not swell and decompose. The carcass cooled fast enough for the stomach contents to be preserved in such a condition as to enable their ready identification.(5) A comparison between the stomach contents of the mammoth and bog burial victims, proposed by White, is not well conceived because the grain in the stomachs of the bog men is hardier than the flowers in the stomach of the mammoth.

Sanderson stated the temperature required for the proper freezing of a mammoth over twenty years ago. According to frozen-food experts, to quick freeze a mammoth, the surrounding air temperature would have to be dropped "to a point well below minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit".(6) Farrand's article, written to support the conventional wisdom and thereby quell popular interest in catastrophic models, dismissed rather than refuted this point.(7) In 1976, Dillow presented the quantitative back-up, essentially corroborating Sanderson.(8) Since Sanderson and Dillow were cited in my original comments, Mr. White is remiss in apparently choosing to ignore this key issue in the debate.

White's dictum that "the importance of freezing as a factor in the survival of ancient cadavers is often over-emphasized" is irrelevant and inadequate concerning mammoths. It is an evasion of the quantitative evidence catastrophists are so often accused of not presenting. When White states that "the occurrence of preserved stomach contents . . . should not be offered as proof of sudden death and instantaneous freezing", he demonstrates both his lack of understanding and propensity for hyperbole. For Mr. White's benefit, freezing (as will be explained below) is the only mechanism that can account for the preservation of the stomach contents of the Beresovka mammoth. Physically, the freezing cannot be "instantaneous" in an absolute sense because heat conduction takes time.

After obtaining expert opinion concerning how long plant parts would remain identifiable in a mammoth's stomach, Dillow concluded that the Beresovka mammoth died within a half hour of ingesting its last meal and that the stomach temperature was lowered to at least 40F within ten hours. At 40F digestive activity practically stops. Ten hours is the outside limit for buttercup preservation in the stomach. Assuming that the animal gradually froze to death, dying when its body temperature reached 74F, Dillow determined that an air temperature of at least -150F would be required to cool the stomach from 74F to 40F within ten hours. However, this is inconsistent with its dying a half hour after eating unless it continued to eat during its death throes because it takes longer than a half hour for the mammoth to cool down to 74F. If the animal died immediately, then the initial body temperature would be 100F. In this case, cooling to 40F within ten hours would require an air temperature of at least -200F. While issue may be taken with Dillow over details in his analysis, the results would not be significantly changed.(9)


Commentators such as White and Hoyle(10) resort to ice-cold water when they need a quick-chilled mammoth. White proposes that "a fall into the chilled melt water from a glacier, even in summer, would account for the observations made . . .". This absolutely would not account for the observations made on the Beresovka mammoth because water would have washed away the blood found under him. (11) Aside from this, such a proposal is not very well thought out because ice water cannot cool a carcass fast enough to prevent decomposition. Using Dillow's graphical method(12) for cooling with 32F water reveals that it would take about 240 hours (ten days) to cool a mammoth's stomach from 100F to 40F. This is clearly not fast enough to preserve the stomach contents. The efficacy of embedding a body in mud to account for the preservation, as Thenius does,(13) is worse than the case with ice water because the mud is more viscous. Credence has to be given to the catastrophic cooling hypothesis because of the degree of preservation of the delicate structures of the plants in the Beresovka mammoth's stomach.

White also endorses Farrand's assertion that the mammoths froze slowly. Slow freezing cannot account for the observed state of preservation of the better specimens. Although Farrand realized the evidence did not indicate death by slow freezing, he rejected the agency of sudden freezing altogether (implicitly under ordinary conditions) because of the large size of the mammoth's warm-blooded body. Cardona pointed out: "Sanderson, however, had already shown that only sudden freezing could account for the unburst cells in the mammoth cadavers."(14) Implicitly rejecting Sanderson, Farrand concluded that they died suddenly, but, by default, were frozen slowly.


Concerning the Beresovka specimen, White believes that "the presence of both flowers and seeds in the stomach suggested death in Fall". White is not alone in advancing such a claim. On the basis of seeds, Pfizenmayer deduced "that the mammoth must have come to its miserable end in the autumn".(15) Again, this does not survive close scrutiny. Lazy lawn tenders and morning glory enthusiasts can watch their plants go to seed all summer long, as I often have. In recounting the range of plants recovered from the Beresovka mammoth's stomach, White is quite disingenuous in overlooking Ranunculus, the common buttercup. Interestingly, buttercups do not grow, much less bloom, unless the temperature is well above 40F.(16) The average temperature in Siberia along the Lena River (assumed to be representative) exceeds 40F only three months of the year: June, July and August. From an average 53F in August, the average drops to 30F in September and 7F in October.(17) This evidence lends strong credence to the conclusion of V. N. Sukachev, who performed the original stomach analysis, that "the mammoth died during the second half of July or the beginning of August".(18) White's statement that "death occurred in a warm season remains to be proved" is simply not consistent with the facts.


When the letter in question was written in June 1980, I was aware of the issue of whether the decomposition found in the best preserved mammoth specimens occurred in antiquity before interment in the permafrost or recently upon thawing more or less at the time of discovery. Efforts to find out whether ancient decomposition could be distinguished from recent were not conclusive. Consolation was taken from the fact that Farrand offers no particularly compelling evidence from histology or pathology to support ancient decomposition. The usual conditions of discovery guarantee that decomposition occurs. The correctness of early attempts to discriminate between ancient and recent decomposition certainly seems open to question. Cardona, whose survey article was the point of departure for my 1980 letter, was more assured on this point.(19)

White would have us believe that "further contributions have been made by distinguished palaeontologists and biochemists" proving "that each beast was assaulted from both within and without before freezing became complete". One of the references to this is Gillespie.(20) However, Gillespie relies on Farrand who, in turn, relied on Tolmachoff. Here is what Tolmachoff reported:

As in no case a scientist had a chance to examine mammoth flesh immediately after the animal had been discovered, but usually a year, two, or more later, it appeared correct to attribute these conditions to putrefaction which took place after the uncovering of a carcass. But a strong smell is peculiar to the mammoth localities and to the ground within which remnants are buried, even when they are concealed within and, presumably, still firmly frozen. No process of decay is possible under temperatures below the freezing point, and in the case of the mammoth, rhinoceros, etc., it did not take place; because if it had, after many thousands years of decaying even though it were a gradual process, no soft parts would have been preserved. The smell in the ground may, therefore, be the result of the putrefaction started immediately after the death of an animal, before it became permanently frozen, and may be called fossil as well as a carcass itself. . . . An examination of the flesh and fat of the mammoth from Beresovka River has also shown that they suffered a deeply penetrating chemical alteration as a result of the very slow decay which was going on, probably, in an airtight medium. It would be possible to refer these alterations to the time immediately following the death of an animal when it was, for example, covered with drift, but not yet definitely frozen, or was for a while in water, etc. Like common decay these chemical processes had to be suspended so soon as ground and the carcass became firmly frozen.(21)

Refreshingly, this wording is no categorical assertion of causes. It leaves room for alternatives. As Sanderson showed, decay before final freezing is not incompatible with a catastrophic model.(22) However, decay in a frozen specimen does not necessarily cease while it is encased in ice or frozen ground.

Granting for the sake of argument that decomposition ceases upon freezing, a body encased in ice is not necessarily continuously frozen. Because of the molal freezing point depression, body fluids freeze at 31F, not 32F.(23) When the temperature is below 31F, everything is frozen. When the temperature of the permafrost rises to between 31F and 32F, the ground remains solid but partial thawing of tissue can occur and "very slow decay . . . in an airtight medium" can proceed. How much decay may have occurred prior to final "freezing" is problematical. This phenomenon suggests that decay can proceed while a specimen is "frozen" in ice and should be plausible to anyone who has observed the slow growth of mold on cheese, jelly, and bread stored in a refrigerator at, say, 35F. At 32F such processes would just be even slower.

While the mammoths were buried thousands of years, this mode of very slow decay could have proceeded intermittently and recently as the eroding surface of the permafrost approached the carcass. Therefore, the decay observed upon discovery is not necessarily indicative of the extent of the decay which occurred close to the time of death.

Zimmerman and Tedford looked at tissue samples from Alaskan mammals recovered from the permafrost and concluded that the specimens did not support Sanderson's "rapid freezing under conditions of catastrophic climate change".(24) Their comparison is of dubious worth since they were ignoring the possible differences between conditions in Alaska and Siberia which led to some whole mammoths having been preserved in Siberia among the fragments while no whole specimens have been found in Alaska, just primarily torn and shredded fragments. They also were ignoring the fact that, as indicated above, Sanderson allowed for conditions that would produce a wide range of degrees of preservation.

That "frozen mammoth carcasses do show evidence of mutilation by predators in antiquity [as a general rule] " requires more than White's assertion. According to Pfizenmayer, the mutilation of the Beresovka mammoth occurred upon emerging from its burial, prior to and immediately after discovery.(25) The wound on Dima's leg has not been associated with predation by wild animals.(26)

On this point, White may be placing unjustified reliance on Farrand who wrote: "In addition, all the frozen specimens were rotten and, in most cases, had been somewhat mutilated by predators prior to freezing. This is attested to by many first-hand accounts ([Tolmachoff], p. 60; [Quackenbush, p. 107]; [Popov, in Russian], p. 274; [Benkendorf and Hertz, cited in Digby, pp. 102, 118-119])."(27) In the margin of my copy of Farrand's article I wrote: "how does he know [that the mutilation occurred before freezing] ?"

After checking Farrand's three English-language references, it is clear that this question is moot because none of them mention mutilation at all. The references all explicitly support the specimens having emitted a stench. Besides the fact that Quackenbush was describing the discovery in Alaska of a partial mammoth skeleton with scraps of flesh and hair attached, whose dissembled state may have been the result of scavenging, nothing Quackenbush said about the find dealt with the role of predators.(27a)


Noting that "it is usually the giant mammals of the Pleistocene (woolly rhinoceros and mammoth) which are preserved in the permafrost", White contends that in catastrophism "at least equal representation by other animal species in a deep frozen state is to be expected". Farrand, in making a similar point, used "only" for "usually" and suggested that "some peculiarity of their physique" contributed to their succumbing to the hazards of life on the tundra.(28) And at first glance, this sounds reasonable. But this, too, is not as certain as White and Farrand would have it appear. As pointed out above, the preservation of a whole mammoth under ordinary circumstances is improbable in the extreme by virtue of the extraordinary cooling requirements. Furthermore, Farrand is contradicted by Zimmerman and Tedford who examined the body of a lynx, a lemming {or vole), and the nearly complete remains of a rabbit, all of which were collected in the Fairbanks district of Alaska.(28a)

It is far from certain that catastrophism requires "at least equal representation . . .". While large animals are harder to freeze than small ones, they are also harder to thaw. Assuming an initial catastrophic freeze followed closely by a warming prior to final freezing, small animals would thaw and decompose more readily than large ones.(29) Such a thermal rebound is possible if the catastrophic event occurred in late summer before the normal onset of cold weather.(29a)

A catastrophe would not necessarily be expected to affect all sizes equally. Clube and Napier "estimate that the shock wave generated by the impact of . . . a big asteroid on land would not only destroy all the earth's forests but also kill all the larger land-dwelling animals".(30) It has also been pointed out that an imbalance of more large dinosaurs preserved as fossils than small ones suggests some kind of mass death.(31) This is not to say the cases of the dinosaurs and mammoths are identical, but to show the possibility of size as a discriminant.

Bones of smaller animals have also been found with mammoth bones. Among 3,500 bones, mostly mammoth, unearthed by Vereshchagin in 1970 were found

very occasionally the bones of Pleistocene animals: Arctic hare, wolf and wolverine (including one whole wolverine skeleton with skin and hair still attached to its head and paws), horse, bison, reindeer, woolly rhinoceros and cave lion (the still mysterious big cat of the Pleistocene era). Nearly a quarter had been gnawed by predators but the best-preserved still retained a waxy marrow.(32)

Meanwhile, sampling bias has likely been operating in Siberia. The apparent absence of carcasses of other animals besides mammoth and rhinoceros was discussed by Tolmachoff.

Carcasses of other animals, as of the musk ox, horse, etc., must be very common in the frozen ground of Siberia, but local people usually do not pay any attention to them, and stories of their discoveries used to be told only occasionally to the scientists who happened to visit the particular spot where such an animal had been found .(33)

It must be remembered that only mammoth and rhinoceros, by virtue of their ivory, have commercial value and the expeditions sent by the Russian Academy of Science to Northern Siberia were hunting for mammoths. Thus, since what is not being looked for is usually not noticed, it is conceivable that the presence of carcasses of other animals would not have been noticed or even reported if they had.

Pfizenmayer tells more about the bias in favor of mammoth and rhinoceros.

The professional hunters . . . send perhaps a mammoth or rhinoceros skull to the dealers, or that of a bison if it has large horns; but they do not bother with the skull of smaller animals, because they argue that the smaller the skull the less the proceeds of its sale!

An exiled student told me, in Verkhoyansk on my way back from Kolymsk, that an ivory hunter had found the carcass of a horse four years before, sticking half out of the frozen earth in a fissure in the bank of a lake in the tundra, in the northern part of the district. According to the description by the man, who puzzled over the find - unusual there - the parts of the body sticking out of the ground showed a covering of very long greyish-white hair. . . . But it was naturally neither investigated nor salvaged; nor are many other prehistoric bodies of various animals which are continually cropping up in the district of Verkhoyansk. For that district is the size of France, but has only one inhabitant to ten square miles.(34)

In grappling with the details in the mammoth literature, inconsistencies become apparent. For example, Farrand claimed that only four whole mammoth carcasses had been found. The number should have been at least five because the four does not include the animal Benkendorf discovered in 1846.(35) This reportedly complete carcass was measured and examined by Benkendorf, but it is not counted officially, evidently because it was swept away in the spring flood after erosion undermined the bank on which it reposed.

As a result of incidents like this and the accounts quoted above, the number and distribution of recoverable whole carcasses, mammoth and otherwise, is probably much greater than the admittedly small number of recovered ones. Therefore, it is fallacious for Farrand to have represented the small number that have been found, by implication, as the number that could have been found. In this light, his declaration, seconded by White, that the number that have been found frozen "is of the order of magnitude expected among terrestrial mammals on the basis of chance burial" appears to be arbitrary and self-serving.(36)


Whether or not the mammoth was truly adapted to life in present arctic conditions will likely never be proven beyond a doubt. If it were so adapted, it was an extremely improbable match because very little about the mammoth's anatomy, beyond superficial characteristics, matches the requirements for life in the arctic.

The mammoth's adaptation to extreme cold is a conclusion drawn more readily than proven. While excavating the Beresovka mammoth and noting the thick fur, Herz quite naturally declared the mammoth's adaptation to cold.(37) Most other commentators have gone along with this facile conclusion.

In arguing against adaptation to cold, my original comments had focused on Neuville's observation that, like the elephant, the mammoth lacked sebaceous glands.(38) Their oil serves to condition both the pelage - keeping it in an orderly, efficacious state - and the skin, protecting it against dehydration in the cold air. This would seem to have been a serious deficiency for an animal whose size prevented it from burrowing to avoid the ravages of blizzards. This objection would be ameliorated if it could be shown that the mammoth migrated south for the winter.

The case is not that clear-cut, however. Ryder, cited by White, tended to discount the importance of the missing sebaceous glands in favor of the missing hair erector muscles. These muscles act to increase the dead-air space between hairs thereby improving the fur's insulating quality. Ryder's remarks on this subject, based on his examination of skin samples, are as follows:

Sections cut parallel to the skin surface revealed sparse, round, non-medullated hairs with no glands or erector muscles. . . .

In attempting to draw conclusions from this evidence, the tendency is to think of the modern elephant as having lost the hair seen in the mammoth, but the modern elephant must be regarded as the ancestral form. Thus the ancestral elephant probably lacked skin glands and hair erector muscles, and it seems that these were not developed by the mammoth. Erector muscles, but not the skin glands, would have been advantageous in a cold climate. Why the elephant lost these glands when they are retained in the similarly "hairless" rhinoceros is not clear.(39)

In citing Ryder in his Footnote 5, White's suggestion that "the presence of the [hair erector muscles] might well be masked by the inevitable putrefactive changes described in the text" is unwarranted second-guessing. Despite the degradation noted in their examinations, neither Neuville nor Ryder were disposed to offer such a qualification.

A large quantity of information bearing on this question has been gathered from scientists around the world and field trips to museums and assembled by Hans Krause in a privately published book, The Mammoth - In Ice and Snow?(40) Krause shows that none of the eight characteristics of the mammoth that have been cited as evidence for adaptation to cold is either a valid or reliable index. The characteristics include small ears, long curved tusks, short legs, long hair and thick skin, short tail, anal flap, fat hump and thick layer of fat beneath the skin.

For example, the small ears, short legs and short tail are unreliable indicators because they do not vary consistently with latitude in comparisons among rabbits and foxes. That is, a rabbit in a cold climate can have a larger ear than one in a warmer climate, when the opposite would be expected.(41) The curved tusks, which allegedly were used to clear snow during winter foraging, show abrasion comparable to that on the tusks of present-day elephants which do not engage in any shoveling activity.(42) No living arctic land mammal relies on subcutaneous fat for insulation. Land animals tested in the middle of winter possessed no thermally significant layer of fat beneath the skin.(43) Unlike the mammoth, no hoofed grazing animals in the arctic today have shaggy leg hair which would interfere with movement through snow. Contemporary grazing arctic animals with short leg hair are able to minimize heat loss by lowering the temperature of their legs by controlling both the flow and temperature of blood to them.(44)

As the largest living, grazing arctic land animal - and in contrast to the mammoth - the caribou possess both hair erector muscles and sebaceous glands.(45) The mammoth's alleged adaptation to cold is a misconceived conclusion, unsupported by the facts.

40,000+ YEARS OLD?

Although White did not comment on my remarks concerning the age of frozen mammoths, this subject is important enough for renewed discussion. Radiocarbon ages for mammoth remains range from about 2,600 years to over 40,000 years. The youngest remains have been bone fragments from Mexico and Bavaria. Siberian and Alaskan remains, which include soft tissue, tend to be dated much older. From the standpoint of a climatic cataclysm, this is not as serious as it may first appear since the cataclysm could have merely affected the northernmost populations, leaving other areas unaffected.

The age and spread of radiocarbon dates for mammoths would seem to indicate that no single event exterminated them. Contrary to Velikovsky in Worlds in Collision and Earth in Upheaval, these datings cast doubt on the mammoths having been killed and frozen during the last, or even any, of the catastrophes described in Worlds in Collision This issue concerned Cardona writing in KRONOS I:4, pp. 77-85,and was taken-up by John White in Pole Shift, pp.21-22, 131-133.

The reliability of radiocarbon dating is certainly questionable. Typically, when a frozen mammoth is discovered, its initial "guesstimated" age is later shown by radiocarbon dating to be too young. Upon discovery in 1977, Dima was widely reported to be between 9,000 and 12,000 years old.(46) Conventional radiocarbon dating puts its age between 39,500 and 44,000 years.(47) However, when Dima was radiocarbon dated by scientists from the University of Rochester using a tandem accelerator mass spectrometer, (48) the age turned out to be 27,000 years.(49) In comparison, the conventional radiocarbon age for the Beresovka mammoth is 40,500 to 47,500 years.(50)

In the conventional method, the age is determined after counting carbon-14 disintegrations in a measured sample over a long period, usually 24 hours.(51) In the new method, the actual number of carbon-14 and carbon-12 atoms in a sample are counted. The difference between the ages derived by the two different methods indicates a large difference in the amount of carbon-14 detected. The "old" age corresponds to about 0.64% of the original carbon-14 remaining, while the "young" age corresponds to about 3.82% remaining. This discrepancy, barring contamination, goes beyond mere matters of sensitivity and, to my knowledge, has not been explained. The main point for this discussion is that if the samples tested were uncontaminated then the radiocarbon age depends on the analytical method used.

In an attempt to deal with the range and extreme age of the radiocarbon dates for mammoths, John White used a suggestion provided by this writer(52) which derived from Ralph Juergens' article on radiohalos in KRONOS III:1.(53) The idea goes as follows. If the radioactive decay of carbon-14 were accelerated by the altered electrification of the Earth resulting from a cosmic discharge,(54) and if the effect varied with the distance from the hypocenter of the discharge, then - assuming an interplanetary thunderbolt in the north - the radiocarbon ages of frozen specimens (and all organic material) might be expected to display a concentric pattern of isochrons (lines connecting specimens with the same age). Multiple discharges over a wide area would complicate the pattern of measured ages.

Thus, the accelerated radioactive decay would increase the carbon-14 ages of the mammoths, and an effect varying with distance would account for the range of ages if the frozen specimens in fact died at the same time. Recognizing the scarcity of frozen mammoth remains, this procedure could be applied to other organic matter associated with mammoth-bearing strata in order to get more data points to test this hypothesis.(54a)

There is yet another factor bearing on the validity of radiocarbon dating. Melvin A. Cook has pointed out that radiocarbon dating is based on the assumption that carbon-14 is in equilibrium in the biosphere. However, Cook cites data showing that the rate of formation of carbon-14 is 18.4 compared with a rate of decay of 13.3. If this relationship is valid, Cook maintains that all radiocarbon ages telescope to about 10,000 years or less.(55)

The above indicates that the absolute accuracy of radiocarbon dating has yet to be established. Even the bristlecone pine tree-ring calibration is subject to serious reservations regarding its validity.(56) Whether the arctic mammoth populations died during, or in the aftermath of, a cosmic catastrophe as proposed by Velikovsky is not excluded by what we know now because of the uncertainties attending radiocarbon dating. Contrary to Cardona, we are not constrained to place the death of arctic mammoths during the last cataclysm(57) if the devastation from the Mars events 2,800 years ago was significantly less than that from the Venus events 3,400 years ago.(58)


Begging Mr. White's pardon, I did not "choose to ignore the findings of the young but powerful science of taphonomy". Until receiving his comments, I truly had never even heard of it. His definition - "the study of all the processes that are gone through from the moment that an animal starts to die up until its remains are finally embedded in a geological stratum" - is at once imposing and grandiose. It is in fact an inflation of Thenius' definition "which is concerned with all that happens from the time an animal starts to die until it is finally embedded".(59) Other definitions are more concise.

White's unwarranted charge made me very alert to this burgeoning young field, which, being about ten years old, only recently held its first conference, concentrating on vertebrates in Africa.(60) While the word literally means "the laws of burial", the central concern of taphonomy is what it takes to make a fossil.(61) One book review stated that "Taphonomy is the enterprise of reconstructing the processes embedding fossils".(62) Another identified taphonomy as "the study by statistical means not only of the bones that fit into one skeleton but also of the entire assembly of bones found together".(63) Yet another review described taphonomy as "the study of the processes by which bones come to be buried".(64) This flurry of reviews on three recent books on taphonomy reveals a potent discipline which has yet to be brought to bear meaningfully on the problem of the frozen mammoths.


Mr. White would be a more effective advocate if he stuck more assiduously to the record. It is always easier to accept criticism for what one has said than for what one has not said. Twice in discussing frozen mammoth remains, White sets the word "intact" in quotes. Besides the fact that the word is entirely inappropriate regarding any aspect of the mammoth controversy ("intact" implies retention of perfection of a thing in its natural or original state) neither Farrand nor I even used the word. Farrand did use the words "nearly complete" (p. 731) and "nearly whole" (p. 733). My relevant phrase appeared as follows: "the carcasses that are recovered essentially whole froze quickly enough to prevent their putrefaction, and being eaten by scavengers." White's reworking of this into "the carcasses that are preserved whole . . ." is something else entirely. His misuse of "intact", together with his overwhelming preference for "putrefaction" over "decomposition", further burdens the discussion with an unwarranted semantic loading. Even though I used the word "putrefaction", it was to deny the process, while White's usage is to promote the idea. As Dr. Alta Price, pathologist, cogently argues below, White's use of "putrefaction" is altogether over-blown.

While looking at frozen mammoths has a certain logic and undeniable appeal, such a narrow focus creates a false impression concerning the number of whole mammoths that have been entombed throughout Europe and Asia. This latter category is not to be confused with the thousands of individuals deduced from fossil ivory recoveries and chaotic bone caches. Where the ground is not permanently frozen, only skeletons survive. Thus, an entire skeleton is, in a sense, equivalent to a whole carcass. For example, about 1846 near Moscow, in the bed of a dried-up stream, the skeleton of a mammoth was discovered standing vertically.(65) Howorth relates the discovery, with no pretension of being exhaustive, of over thirty-two mostly complete skeletons in Russia, Poland, Germany, France, Belgium, England, Spain, and Italy, some of which were also standing.(66) This is nothing less than amazing considering that only five frozen mammoths have been found nearly complete and that it is extremely rare to find the remains of animals which have recently died.

Paying attention only to the few, isolated, frozen specimens obscures another aspect of the mode in which the remains occur. According to Howorth, "It is a remarkable fact that in Siberia, as in Europe, the fossil animals are seldom found alone."(67) The Adams mammoth discovered at the Lena delta in 1799 was located near an earlier specimen. The Moscow mammoth also had companions.

Another misleading impression is created by looking at the small number of frozen specimens which were all found next to rivers. The gradual erosion ensures the continual exposure of new remains, but, as Howorth makes clear,

Every effort to find any still operating cause by which the bones could be so protected and covered in by clay, or gravel, or mud far away from the great rivers, and in the more or less raised mounds and hillocks on the tundra, has utterly failed.... The remains in Siberia do not generally occur along river-courses, nor do they occur chiefly in marshy or boggy land, nor in land that could ever have been boggy, but, as Lyell himself admits, they are chiefly found "where the banks of the rivers present lofty precipices of sand and clay". . . (68)

Yet another aspect of the mammoth situation is skirted by focusing on the isolated frozen individuals. With the dissipation of the notion that the mammoths were covered with river mud, according to Howorth,

there disappears of course all the imaginative and sensational writing which would account for the vast hecatombs [containing many victims] which are found in certain places like New Siberia, 150 miles from any considerable river, or in high grounds far away from any possible river channel, as the result of a succession of disasters occurring at fords and crossing-places, where animals of different species congregated either for drinking or passage. If it were remembered for a moment that these remains are found in the interior of hilly islands, in the midst of the tundra, or in high ground where no river could possibly flow, and where if it did flow, it would scarcely have deposited hills of clay and gravel suddenly in its own channel, such theories would never have seen the light.(69)

The foregoing points severely undermine the notion rampant among uniformitarians like Farrand and William White that the frozen specimens we find are isolated individuals who succumbed to ordinary hazards of tundra life.(70)

It was unnecessary for White to point out that "where remains are sufficiently well preserved for cause of death to be established, mammoth mortality was not the result of a disastrous temperature change but of asphyxia". My original letter was not concerned with the cause of death, but with the means of preservation. Having cited Farrand and Cardona, both of whom discuss death by asphyxiation, my awareness of this putative cause of death is clearly apparent. White is remiss in apparently ignoring the fact that death by asphyxiation does not by necessity exclude a catastrophic scenario.

Perhaps the "young science of taphonomy" can one day make sense of the complex mammoth situation; and undoubtedly the uniformitarian model explains some of the bones in fluvial deposits. However, what the uniformitarian model has not explained is the preservation of frozen mammoths in the permafrost. From what is known about the freezing of whole carcasses, only a catastrophic temperature drop of the air to at least -150F (-101C) could lower the mammoth's body temperature fast enough to preserve (prevent the decomposition of) the stomach contents. When the spokesmen for the uniformitarian pastoral scenarios learn the fundamentals of conductive heat transfer, then this dialogue can continue fruitfully.

Writing in 1887, Henry Howorth (a distinguished nineteenth century secular catastrophist whose writing, though not without its limitations today, has been unjustifiably discounted by Tolmachoff and ignored by Farrand) provides a fitting conclusion to this discussion of the mammoth's demise:

However ingeniously and with whatever subtlety we may deal with our evidence, the facts constrain us therefore to one inevitable conclusion, namely, that the Mammoth and its companions perished by some wide-spread catastrophe which operated over a wide area and not through the slow processes of the ordinary struggle for existence, and that the greater portion of the remains we find in Siberia and Europe are not the result of gradual accumulation under normal causes for untold ages, but the result of one of Nature's hecatombs on a grand and wide-spread scale, when a vast fauna perished simultaneously.(71)

Before this interpretation of the evidence becomes widely accepted, however several problems will have to be reconciled. The apparently discordant radiocarbon dates will have to be rationalized as discussed above in order for the datings of the remains to fit a short duration Pleistocene extinction (at whatever epoch). Mass graves containing bones disrupted by scavengers need to be distinguished from those bearing no sign of scavenging. It is possible that scavenging of bones could occur in a secondary burial site after a catastrophe, yet still be old by contemporary standards. When the problem of the frozen mammoths is finally solved, all the data will have to fit the explanation. Catastrophists and uniformitarians, alike, have their jobs cut out for themselves.


1. James Oberg, who originally reported Wm. White's remarks and added his own infelicities to the account in the Winter 1980 Skeptical lnquirer, p.14, resides in Dickinson, Texas. Evidently not wishing himself to comment on mammoths in KRONOS, Oberg enlisted White's help. When White's letter did not appear in KRONOS fast enough to suit Oberg he evidently grew impatient and, without the courtesy of inquiring as to the status of White's letter, he offered it to the editor of another publication. The editor had the good sense to decline the offer.
2. L. Ellenberger, "Problem, Riddle, Mystery: A Mammoth Update", KRONOS V:4 (Summer 1980), pp. 94-97. Due to haste, my letter contained several errors which are corrected as follows: 1) In the last sentence of the third paragraph, the word "probably" should follow the word "vegetation" for the intended meaning. 2) In the sixth paragraph, Tolmachoff did cite Neuville, a fact about which a librarian at the American Philosophical Association misinformed me. See footnote 38. 3) In the seventh paragraph, although Heuvelmans writes in French, he resides in Belgium. 4) In footnote 4, while no letters on Farrand's article appeared in the following year, a letter exchange was published almost 17 months later. Harold E. Lippman's letter with Farrand's (then at the University of Michigan) reply appeared in Science 137 (10 August 1962), pp. 449-452. Ironically Cardona had referred to this exchange in his article. 5) In footnote 5, White's letter in New Scientist was responding to the migration theory of Butler and Hoyle, not Hoyle and Wickramasinghe. In this context, the relevant H & W theory is the one dealing with ice ages beginning when large amounts of comet dust entered Earth's atmosphere.
3. The major sources, besides most of the citations in Farrand, Cardona and Wm. White, worthy of special note are as follows: Henry Hoyle Howorth, The Mammoth and the Flood: An Attempt to Confront the Theory of Uniformity with the Facts of Recent Geology (London, 1887);0. F. Herz, "Frozen Mammoth in Siberia", Smithsonian Report (1903), pp. 611-625; Bassett Digby, The Mammoth and Mammoth-Hunting in North-East Siberia (London and N.Y., 1926); E.W. Pfizenmayer, Siberian Man and Mammoth (Leipzig, 1926; London,1939) [Curiously, Farrand only cited the German edition]; and I. P. Tolmachoff, "The Carcasses of the Mammoths and Rhinoceroses Found in the Frozen Ground of Siberia", Trans. Am. Phil. Soc. 23, Part 1 (Phila., 1929). Among many recent commentators, John White's discussion of mammoths in Pole Shift (N.Y., 1980 and 1982) is especially worth reading.
4. John P. Kelsall, The Migratory Barren-Ground Caribou of Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service, 1968), p. 35. "The insulating effect of caribou hair is well illustrated by the fact that even in extreme winter cold the paunch of a dead animal will swell and spoil just as it would in summer." Kelsall also reports that at temperatures as low as -67 F (-55 C) a caribou calf in winter pelage exhibited no evidence of shivering, thereby attesting to the insulating quality of the caribou's pelage. See also Fred Hoyle, ICE: The Ultimate Human Catastrophe (N.Y.,1981), p. 160. "I have been informed that, today when reindeer fall down crevasses in the Greenland ice, they are subsequently found to be in an unpleasantly putrefied condition . . . The Siberian mammoths, in spite of their much greater body weight, have not putrefied in the same way. . . ."
5. Charles H. Hapgood, The Path of the Pole (Phila.,1970), pp. 264-269. Also, William R. Farrand, "Frozen Mammoths and Modern Geology", Science 133 (17 March 1961), pp. 729-735 (731-733); and Dillow, pp. 6-8 (See note 8).
6. Ivan Sanderson, "Riddle of the Frozen Giants", Saturday Evening Post (January 16, 1960), pp. 39, 82-83 (83). Also John White, p. 27.
7. Farrand, p. 729.
8. Jody Dillow, "The Catastrophic Deep-Freeze of the Beresovka Mammoth", Creation Research Society Quarterly 14 (June 1977), pp.5-13. The source should not impugn the veracity of straight forward technical presentations which can be analyzed scientifically. I am grateful to John White for sending me this article. The Abstract for Dillow's article is reprinted in William R. Corliss, Unknown Earth: A Handbook of Geological Enigmas (Glen Arm, MD, 1980), pp. 693-694.
9. Dillow's (and probably Sanderson's) modelling is based on a lean, hairless animal. The effect of 9 cm. of fat and a thick pelage on the rate of cooling is not taken into account.

The presentation of Dillow's sample graphical calculation (p. 10) is marred by twice identifying the temperature parameter as the Fourier number and then neglecting to state the latter. The missing Fourier numbers are 0.0145 and 0.008, respectively. Fortunately, the stated results are correct. Dillow takes a lot of space to calculate h, the surface heat transfer film coefficient, ostensibly for "the calculations below" (pp. 9-10), then never uses it. Evidently, the coefficient is an input to the Bird's Eye computer program whose results are presented in comparison with those from the graphical method.
10. Hoyle, p.160. Hoyle realizes that a rapid cooling rate is required - much greater than conduction into cold air could give. By proposing freezing rain or ice water, he fails to appreciate their true limitations and implicitly rejects a cataclysmic temperature drop demanded by simple heat conduction considerations.
11. Hapgood, p. 270.
12. A. V. Luikov, Analytical Heat Diffusion Theory (N.Y., 1968), pp. 127,146.
13. Erich Thenius, Fossils and the Life of the Past (London & Heidelberg, 1973), p. 19.
14. Dwardu Cardona, "The Problem of the Frozen Mammoths", KRONOS I:4 (Winter 1976), pp 77-85 (79).
15. Pfizenmayer, p. 90.
16. Sanderson, p. 83; quoted in John White, p. 28.
17. Hapgood, pp. 255-256.
18. Quoted in Hapgood, p. 268. Also, Dima's death in summer was deduced on the basis of grass seeds found in its stomach (See Stewart, note 47, p. 126).
19. Cardona, p. 78. "The fact that it [the flesh] survived to modern 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." It should be pointed out, however, that Dima, the baby mammoth discovered in 1977, was fully entombed when found yet exhibited considerable decomposition.
20. J. M. Gillespie, "Mammoth Hair: Stability of -Keratin Structure and Constituent Proteins", Science 170 (4 December 1970), pp. 1100-1102 (1101).
21. Tolmachoff, p. 60.
22. Sanderson, p. 83. After positing large scale volcanism, triggered by a pole shift, which sent large volumes of gas high into the atmosphere where it cooled, spiralled to the pole and, descending, punched through the atmosphere in "great blobs", creating winds of unimaginable fury, Sanderson concludes: "Here may be the answer to our riddle of why we find mammoths with buttercups in their teeth in one place, shredded but still-edible mammoths in another, rotting mammoths in a third, and mammoth boneyards somewhere else. The animals were frozen whole where the blobs of cold air descended before the winds began, shredded and frozen where the winds came before the cold had spread out, and reduced to bones where the animals had time to decompose before the cold reached them or the moving crust carried them north." In other words, the catastrophe created a wide range of conditions over the affected area. Flooding would have been caused by the winds and/or the Earth's rotation slowing down after a cosmic electrical discharge. In the latter case, slowed rotation would cause the arctic sea level to rise, flooding the low country. As the rotation rate speeded back up (See Ralph Juergens, KRONOS II:3, pp. 12-30), the waters would recede. Through means such as Sanderson described, the matrix of the permafrost would be formed and whole bodies would have been as observed, embedded 40 and even 60 feet beneath the present surface of permanently frozen ground. A mud flow could bury a carcass close to the surface, but not deeply. After the catastrophe and after the permafrost formed, there would be no mammoths to be caught in mud flows.
23. Consult medical encyclopedia.
24. Michael R. Zimmerman and Richard H. Tedford, "Histologic Structures Preserved for 21,300 Years", Science 194 (8 October 1976), pp. 183-184.
25. E. Pfizenmayer, "A Contribution to the Morphology of the Mammoth, Elephas Primigenius Blumenbach; With an Explanation of my Attempt at a Restoration", Smithsonian Report (1906), pp. 321-333 (324).
26. John White, p. 17.
27. Farrand, p. 733.
27a. While none of the sources Farrand cited mentioned mutilation, two pages later in Tolmachoff may be found without elaboration: "The mammoth examined by Vollosovich on the Sanga-Yurakh River had been spoiled by ice-foxes immediately after its death and before it was buried." The original source in Russian is C. A. Vollosovich, "On the Digging Out of the Sanga-Yurakh Mammoth, in 1908 ", Bull. Acad. Sci. III (St. Petersburg, 1909), pp. 437-458. A translation of this reference would be useful for knowing how the conclusion was reached.
28. Farrand, p. 734.
28a. Zimmerman and Tedford, p. 183.
29. Although frozen bodies of small animals are not absent, their presence does not appear to be abundant. If their carcasses are truly under-represented in the permafrost, and if a catastrophe really happened, then a reason for their low numbers is required.
29a. To those who would argue that the presence of specimens such as the Beresovka mammoth and Dima proves that once the carcasses froze the weather never got warm enough to thaw, I would say "Yes, for those specimens; but we must also explain why there are also so many more skeletons with no soft parts remaining."
30. Dale A. Russell, "The Mass Extinctions of the Late Mesozoic", Scientific American (January 1982), pp. 58-65 (63).
31. Ibid., p. 63.
32. John Massey Stewart, "Frozen mammoths from Siberia bring the Ice Ages to vivid life", Smithsonian (December 1977), pp. 60-69 (66-67). Two paragraphs later Stewart places Vereshchagin in a contradiction positing this cache as an example of a secondary burial (the remains moved from one place to another by natural causes) because of "the chaos of bones as well as the absence of complete skeletons," evidently forgetting about the wolverine.
33. Tolmachoff, p. 19. On p. 32, Tolmachoff relates that during the 1885-1886 Bunge and Toll expedition to the New Siberian Islands, Bunge found mammoth remains protruding out of a frozen bluff with bones from the same specimen below. "Presumably it was a complete carcass of a mammoth a few years before the arrival of the expedition. Bunge's guide told him that a few years before, he had found at the bottom of the same bluff, a complete carcass of a musk ox which he was able to describe so well that it was no trouble for Bunge to identify the animal." Here I must point out that Tolmachoff is not always a careful reporter. His map on page 20 showing the locations of the then 39 frozen carcasses that had been found dates this mammoth find to 1866! In addition, in 1979, the fully preserved carcass of a long-horned buffalo-like animal was found by gold miners in Alaska (John White, p. 25).
34. Pfizenmayer, p. 177. In the same vein, after describing the carcasses that had been found up to his time, Howorth (pp. 89-90) added: "As they occur in such very remote and inhospitable districts, seldom visited except by the indigenous polar peoples, it is probable that these examples form only a tithe of those which have occurred during the last two centuries, but which have not been recorded."
35. Digby, pp. 97-103. Tolmachoff (p. 27) states 1848 erroneously. Howorth (p. 90) affirms the 1846 date.
36. Farrand, p. 733.
37. Digby, p. 120.
38. H. Neuville, "On the Extinction of the Mammoth", Smithsonian Report (1919), pp. 327-338 (331-333). The absence of sebaceous glands in the elephant stated by Neuville is reported in Fred Smith, "The Histology of the Skin of the Elephant", Journal of Anatomy and Physiology 24 (1890), pp. 493-503 (496).

Regarding the mammoth, Neuville concluded: "The very peculiar fur of the mammoth [in the absence of sebaceous glands] thus furnished only a precarious protection against cold, a protection analogous to that enjoyed at present by a few mammals of the tropical zone. . . . It appears to me impossible to find, in the anatomical examination of the skin and pelage, any argument in favor of adaptation to cold. . . . It is, therefore, only thanks to extremely superficial comparisons which do not withstand a somewhat detailed analysis, that it has been possible to regard the mammoth as adapted to the cold. On account of the peculiar character of its pelage the animal was, on the contrary, at a disadvantage in this respect" (pp. 332-333).

Tolmachoff's rebuttal to Neuville [Am. J. Sci, 214 (1927), pp. 66-69] is too full of misperceptions to be taken seriously. He confounded an animal's sebaceous secretions with "grease" applied externally to fur. He did not take into account that an animal's use of its fur and skin for thermal regulation is different than a man's wearing the same pelt as a fur coat. Claiming that reindeer had no sweat glands while being unsure about "oily glands", he allows that ff sebaceous glands are present, "they are present only in small amount and give no noticeable secretion, as the hairs of a reindeer are always dry and not at least greasy". This ignores the difference between "conditioned" and "greasy". The cat's sebaceous glands keep its fur conditioned, not greasy. After admitting he did not know whether reindeer had "oily glands", Tolmachoff concluded: "Thus the absence of oily and particularly of sweat glands does not prove a deficient adaptation for a cold climate, but rather permits us to consider such an animal potentially very well adapted to it."
39. M. L. Ryder, "Hair of the Mammoth", Nature 249 (10 May 1974), pp. 190-192 (191).
40. Hans Krause, The Mammoth - In Ice and Snow? (Stuttgart, 1978). Reviewed in Elephant I:4 (Fall 1980), pp. 221-224 by Sandra S. Lash.
41. Krause, pp. 16b-25.
42. Ibid., pp. 26-33.
43. P. F. Scholander, et al., "Body Insulation of Some Arctic and Tropical Mammals and Birds", Biological Bulletin 99 (1950), pp. 232-233,266; cited in Krause, pp. 92-94.
44. Laurence Irving, "Adaptations to Cold", Scientific American (January 1966), pp. 94-101 (96-97); cited in Krause, pp. 53-60.
45. Krause, p.52.
46. Stewart (1977), p. 63 and The New York Times, August 14,1977, p. E5.
47. John Massey Stewart, "A baby that died 40,000 years ago reveals a story", Smithsonian (September 1979), pp. 125-126 (125).
48. Malcolm W. Brown, "Physicists Aim Big Guns at Dates of the Past", The New York Times (February 17, 1981), pp. C1, C3.
49. The New York Times (December 25, 1979), p. 14.
50. Hapgood, p. 272.
51. John Gribbin, "Making a date with radiocarbon", New Scientist (17 May 1979), pp. 532-534 (534).
52. John White, pp. 131-133. This suggestion originated in September 1978 at Velikovsky's house in Princeton during a discussion of the draft of the Velikovsky chapter in Pole Shift that John White had sent to Velikovsky for comment. Participating in this discussion were the writer, Fred Jueneman, Albert Burgstahler, and Jan Sammer.
53. Ralph E. Juergens, "Radiohalos and Earth History", KRONOS III:1 (Fall 1977), pp. 3-17.
54. Judging from conversations with scientists, no dogma is more firmly entrenched than the unalterability of radio isotope decay rates. When told about experiments in which decay rates involving the ejection of beta particles were altered, they allow as how such an easy ejection might be affected experimentally, but that decay rates involving alpha particles are truly unalterable and, anyway, the beta particle decay rates were not affected very much.
54a. In conjunction with the radiocarbon dating, the mammoth samples should be dated by amino acid racemization as a control to see if the methods give comparable and consistent results. If cosmic electrical discharges altered decay rates, the amino acid racemization "clock" may not have been affected at all or to the same extent as the radiocarbon "clock". Racemization is sensitive to the thermal history of a sample, being most accurate for material that has existed at a constant temperature. Frozen mammoth remains meet this criterion very well.
55. Melvin A. Cook, "Do Radiological 'Clocks' Need Repair?" Creation Research Society Quarterly 5 (1968), pp. 69-77. Abstract in Corliss' Unknown Earth, p. 801. A similar presentation is made in Cook's Prehistory and Earth Models (London,1966), pp. 1 -10.
56. Herbert C. Sorensen, "The Ages of Bristlecone Pine", Pensée IVR IV (1973), pp. 15-18. Sorensen raises five questions against accepting the validity of the bristlecone pine chronology: 1) How can such a chronology be constructed with a high percentage of complacent specimens (growth rings of essentially equal width giving no definite pattern)? 2) How can specimens with up to 10% of their rings missing be cross matched under any circumstances? 3) How can this chronology be used to "calibrate" radiocarbon dating when radiocarbon dating is used in construction of the chronology? 4) If a ring is "missing" how can it be found, especially when a high percentage of rings are missing? 5) Why is only the final chronology published, with refusal to release the data upon which it is based?
57. Cardona, p. 82.
58. Because Mars is so much smaller than Venus, the Mars events, as Velikovsky realized, could not have been as destructive as the Venus events. The degree of destruction claimed by Velikovsky for the Mars and Venus events has not been reconciled with the geological evidence with special emphasis on the dating. Granted that there is abundant evidence for upheavals, the accepted dates for them do not fit a Velikovskian time frame. The torque required to produce a pole shift [KRONOS VII:2 (winter 1982), pp. 89-96] by gravitation alone is beyond the capability of either Venus or Mars so quantitative modelling of electromagnetic effects is needed. If the date for the Pleistocene extinctions cannot he revised to 2,800 B.P. or 3,400 B.P., perhaps they may coincide with the earlier Jovian event, or the Saturnian event.
59. Thenius, p. 28.
60. James Gorman, "The Making of a Fossil", Discover (January 1981), pp. 64-64 (65). The article contains a picture sequence showing the deterioration of an elephant carcass over the period of a year. At the end, the bones are scattered.
61. Ibid., p. 65.
62. Science 213 (11 September 1981), p. 1241.
63. Scientific American (February 1982), p. 34.
64. New Scientist (11 March 1982), p. 663.
64a. Another erroneous quotation occurs in White's footnote 24. White implies that Sanderson's "absolutely countless numbers" refers to mammoths when, if you read what Sanderson wrote, the phrase clearly refers to "all these assorted creatures", i.e., all the animals embedded in the permafrost.
65. Howorth (1887), pp. 157-158.
66. Ibid., pp. 158-164.
67. Ibid., p. 165.
68. Ibid., p. 181.
69. Ibid., pp. 182-183.
70. Farrand, p. 734; Stewart (1977), pp. 64-65.
71. Howorth, loc. cit., p. 183.

Dwardu Cardona Comments:


I will say at once that the arguments that follow are not new. But then neither is the frozen mammoth controversy. The issue, of course, has never been satisfactorily settled and I very much doubt that it soon will be. Uniformitarians can be stubborn but the new breed of catastrophists, of whom I am one, can be equally die-hard. The subject has been lately beclouded by a few inconsistencies and a lot of hair-splitting. Allow me then to reset the record.

The problem, and it does exist, has nothing to do with whether mammoths were able to "tolerate" extreme cold but whether a sudden cold wave was responsible for their preservation. More to the point, it is whether these beasts reached their end under uniformitarian conditions or whether they succumbed to a catastrophic onslaught.

The argument of the oil glands, first raised by H. Neuville,(1) should not have been repeated and neither should that which is based on the mammoths' woolly coat. Neuville presented his findings in 1919 and we have progressed some since then. Today it is well known that neither oil glands nor thick fur are an indication of climatic environment. William White is, therefore, absolutely right when he discards this "evidence" as of no value in determining the conditions under which the mammoths thrived and died.

That, however, is as far as I shall go with White. Everything else he stated in his reply to Ellenberger is either incorrect or immaterial. What, for instance, does the association of Arctic animal remains prove? In a cave in Choukoutien, near Peiping/Peking, in China, mammoth remains were found associated not only with Arctic animals but also with ostriches.(2) What are we to deduce from that?

White challenges catastrophists to "account for the absence of temperate species (e.g., straight-tusked elephant, deer, wild cattle) preserved in a deep frozen state". Why straight-tusked elephants? Are straight tusks an indication of temperate climes? And how uncurved should a pair of tusks be before they can be considered straight? Literally speaking, straight tusks are unknown.

Curved tusks in mammoths are considered an indication of age. Younger members possessed straighter tusks. The straightest tusks known to this writer belonged to mastodons of the species anancus. They roamed Africa during the so-called Pleistccene. But they were also quite common in Europe and Asia along with woolly mammoths.(3) Mastodons were also found deep frozen together with mammoths in Alaska.(4) So what do "straight" tusks prove?

And why necessarily "deer and wild cattle"? How about horses, the remains of which have also been found deep-frozen with mammoth remains in the same region?(5)

White bemoans the ''deficiency of small animals" found preserved in these present-day cold regions. Are squirrels small enough for him? Ice Age relatives of these tiny animals, still curled up in their nests, were discovered in quantum sufficit around Fairbanks, in Alaska.(6)

It is strange to read White's statement that "We have no knowledge of tundra vegetational coverage in former times" when all he had to do was tally the stomach contents of the very mammoths under discussion. Sukachev, Farrand, and Osborn have conducted extensive studies of these contents from which a list of 55 items can be compiled.(7) These include herbs, grasses, mosses, cruciferae, as well as shrubs and even trees.(8)

White is also incorrect when he states that the stomach contents of the Berezovka mammoth suggest a death in Autumn. Sukachev had already shown that the remains of plants discovered in the beast's innards indicate that "the mammoth died during the second half of July or the beginning of August".(9) Even in Siberia this would still be Summer. That death occurred in a warm season, therefore, does not remain to be proved.

White tries to wiggle out of this one by stating that "anyway warm is a relative term when applied to the summer of Alaska or Siberia". With temperatures ranging between 60F (Alaskan interior) and as high as 100F (Siberian hinterland), I hardly consider "warm" being relative.(10) As far as Siberia is concerned, its summers, although short, are hot rather than warm.

To this, White adds that "A fall into the chilled melt-waters from a glacier, even in summer, would account for the observations made". I can just see the Berezovka mammoth falling into the "chilled melt-waters" of a glacier and landing on the bottom on its haunches with its forelegs curiously bent forward, a position which it retained until the day of its discovery thousands of years later. It did not even roll over.

I. P. Tolmachoff had long ago indicated that the ice surrounding the Berezovka mammoth was not formed from water but from packed snow.(11) Besides which, it is a well known fact that elephants are fantastic swimmers. Being so much alike, one would assume so were the mammoths.

It is true that, with the exception of Dima - the six-month-old baby mammoth discovered in 1977 - preservation of mammoth carcasses is never "complete". But this has already been accepted.(12) Despite White's statement to the contrary, however, the commencement of putrefaction PRIOR to freezing has never been satisfactorily proven. Eyeballs are among the first parts of the body to decompose after death yet some of the mammoths discovered in Siberia had their eyeballs intact .

Dima is the only specimen so far to have been discovered in an unthawed condition. I might be wrong but, to my knowledge, it showed no signs of putrefaction. Yet, even if it did, it would not much matter for there is nothing in prevalent catastrophic theories which excludes interim, even if minimal, thawing between catastrophes.

The fact remains that, where mammoth carcasses, in whole or in part, have been discovered, decomposition has been minimal. They did not decompose away. Even White had to cover himself by postulating a retardation of the decay process by the removal of body water as ice. It is true that dehydration is more effective than low temperature in retarding the multiplication of putrefactive bacteria. But if climatic conditions have not changed since the mammoths roamed, why is it that only extinct species are ever discovered entombed in ice?

One could also ask how a mammoth would dehydrate at the bottom of a lake of glacial melt-water. But then, on the authority of Evans,(13) White informs us that those mammoths who ended their life by drowning were preserved by the "spontaneous" transformation of their adipose tissue into stable adipocere. The adipose tissue beneath the skin is the main reservoir of fat in the body. Mammoths were fatty animals. They were therefore prime candidates for this form of preservation. But, really, how much adipocere, which is a soft waxy substance, did Evans detect in mammoth tissue? Had it been present in obvious quantity, it should have been easily detected earlier. And anyway, the formation of adipocere does not necessarily mean death by drowning. A body will form adipocere when immersed in water after death by any means. Even burial in moist ground will do it.

So what is it going to be - dehydration or a wet burial? Or is it adipocere, followed by dehydration and then freezing? But then how long is all this supposed to have taken?

White anticipated objections based on the time factor so he cautioned us against accepting "the occurrence of preserved stomach contents" as "proof of sudden death and instantaneous freezing". - Well, let's look at the facts.

In the first place, it is not true that digestive processes cease at death. When asked how long buttercups, which were found in the Berezovka mammoth, would last in a recognizable form in the stomach of a mammal after death, C. W. Foley (Veterinary Physiologist at the University of Missouri Medical School) asserted that, in his opinion, it would not be more than three hours.(14)

Simulated tests were also conducted by Dr. Larry Bruce, a gastro-intestinal physiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas. The conclusion reached was that if ancient buttercups resisted attacks of acid and enzymes as strongly as modern carnations which last longer than modern buttercups under such attacks, the stomach temperature would have had to have been lowered to 40F within 10 hours.(15) Since this did not even take chewing and mechanical activity of the stomach, which can last up to one half hour after death, into consideration, the estimate remains a maximum.

"The only way there could have been any recognizable remains in the stomach of the [Berezovka] mammoth would be through the cessation of the digestive activity. The only mechanism that will do this is cooling."(16)

Such cooling, from a minimum 90F to a maximum 40F within a maximum of 10 hours, requires a sudden drop in temperature. Yet this is not the entire story. The 40F is only the temperature which must have been reached within the pachyderm's stomach. The actual exterior temperature must have been even colder. Experiments conducted on two thermodynamic models of the mammoth constructed on the thermodynamic properties of contemporary elephants and the thermal conductivity of beef - to which mammoth meat has been compared - have shown that the Berezovka mammoth, if no other, must have been suddenly overcome by temperatures in the neighborhood of -150 to -175F.(67) Such a drop, from the summer temperatures cited earlier within a maximum period of 10 hours, is not only sudden but catastrophic.

As the accompanying footnotes show, I make no secret concerning the source of the above evidence on buttercups; but before White takes me to task for having relied on the Creation Research Society, allow me to say that I am the last person to blow the Creationist horn. I have, however, long made it a habit to give credit where credit is due and, on this particular issue, I have to admit that Creationists seem to have uniformitarians over the proverbial barrel.

Allow me, now, to review some facts concerning Dima. On the authority of Nikolai Vereschagin, White claims that Dima seems to have suffered a "spear wound" in the leg and that it probably died of starvation "after its lactating mother had been killed by hunters". A tearjerker of a scenario - but based on what evidence?

The cause of Dima's death has been pin-pointed to blood poisoning incurred by a double leg injury. That something hit the mammoth's leg in two places there seems to be no doubt.(18) But what makes Vereschagin and White so sure it was a spear? And if hungry hunters were responsible for the death of its "lactating mother," why did they leave the more tender young one untouched?

It has also been surmised by Soviet scientists that a mud-flood, caused by melting glaciers, must have buried Dima shortly after death.(19) John White (not to be confused with William White) has asked one telling question:(20) If climatic conditions were warm enough to melt glaciers, how is it that Dima, even though buried in mud, did not decompose while waiting to be frozen by the onslaught of winter?

What I do grant William White is that the direct cause of the Berezovka mammoth's death was asphyxia before freezing. That has always been known and admitted by catastrophists. Suffocation, however, is not necessarily the result of drowning and/or landslide burial as White and others would have us believe. Ivan Sanderson,(21) Immanuel Velikovsky,(22) and Charles Hapgood,(23) have all described extraordinary, but possible, atmospheric conditions which could have asphyxiated the mammoths just prior to freezing. While not necessarily correct in the details these investigators have supplied, it is a fact that, both in Alaska and in Siberia, mammoth remains are associated with evidence of atmospheric tempests of unprecedented dimensions. And it is this overall picture, not the hair-splitting issues we have been debating, that forms the crux of the matter. Although not new, here are the facts:


Despite White's comment that the Soviet Academy of Science has failed to uncover new mammoth remains - despite the fact that only about 50 frozen specimens are known - the presence of untold numbers of mammoths in the past in these northern regions is a proven fact. In Siberia alone, the thousands of mammoth tusks which have been discovered have led to a worldwide trade in ivory which has been going on for centuries, perhaps even millennia.(24) A large quantity of the piano keys and billiard balls of the world have come from this frozen ivory.(25) The Liakhov Islands, the islands of Stolbovoi and Belkov, and the New Siberian Islands, are so full of mammoth bones and tusks that Whitley described these lands as if they were "actually composed of the bones and tusks of elephants".(26) Similar remains in Alaska have also been numbered in the thousands.(27)

Contemporary adult elephants consume up to 350 pounds of food per day. Mammoths, having been larger, must have devoured even more. On what did these truly vast herds live when the terrain in which their remains are now found is treeless and the ground frozen for ten months out of every year? Farrand, it is true, has shown that the plants found in the stomach of the Berezovka mammoth and in deposits enclosing the Mamontova specimen are plants which can still be found thriving in the same areas today.(28) But they are not found in enough quantities to supply 350 pounds of food per day for twelve months of the year for herds consisting of thousands of individuals. Besides which, Farrand is not entirely correct. Agropyron cristatum, found in the stomach of the Berezovka mammoth, is scarcely known in the Arctic regions and very rare in the Yakutsk district. Yet, remains of this plant were the most numerous among the stomach contents of the beast.(29)

Although the Siberian areas which have provided mammoth remains are now treeless, it is well attested that this was not so when the mammoths roamed there. This is proved by the "enormous petrified forests" discovered in the New Siberian Islands. Strata, some 180 feet deep, have been found to consist of uprooted and unuprooted tree trunks.(30) Carbonized trees have been found with the impression of the leaves and fruits they once bore still etched upon them.(31) The picture is the same in Alaska.(32) So how do uniformitarians dare tell us that this terrain has not changed since the Pleistocene era? And how dare White tell us that "We have no knowledge of tundra vegetational coverage in former times"?

Even Farrand, who has long preached against a catastrophic end for the mammoths, had to concede that "In general, this flora assemblage [found in the Berezovka mammoth's stomach] is 'richer . . . somewhat warmer and probably also moister' than the present flora of the tundra in which frozen mammoth carcasses are now found".(33) And, more importantly, 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".(34) In fact, why is it that while the rest of the northern hemisphere was in the grips of the so-called Ice Age, western Alaska and northeastern Siberia - both places where mammoths have been found entombed in ice and/or icy muck - were not then glaciated?

Ivory is filled with a gelatinous solution which facilitates its carving and contributes to its high polish. This solution can only be found in fresh and instantly frozen tusks. It does not otherwise survive the ravages of time. Yet most of the tusks which came from the Siberian graveyards "were as perfect and in as fine a condition as if recently killed".(35)

The "young but powerful science of taphonomy," upon which White relies, has shown that the carcass of an African elephant decays in about three weeks, leaving nothing but the tough skin covering the bones.(36) In temperatures which, according to Farrand, were higher than the present 90-100F of the Siberian summer, the Berezovka mammoth should have likewise decomposed. The position in which this beast was found clearly indicates that it could neither have been drowned nor been crushed beneath a slide. Its stance suggests that it was felled on its haunches, that it attempted to regain its feet, that it was then somehow asphyxiated, and that it froze in this animated position. It did not even keel over.

In both Siberia and Alaska the signs of destruction are more than apparent. In Alaska, multitudes of trees are found "twisted and torn" and "piled in splintered masses". Mammal remains - mammoths, mastodons, bisons, horses are found dismembered and torn, but with portions of ligaments, skin, hair, and even flesh, still intact and fresh, all mingled with the splintered remains of this mighty forest.(37) Contrary to what Francis Hitching surmised,(38) the permafrost in which this destruction is entombed does contain "great quantities of volcanic dust and debris". In fact, four separate layers of volcanic ash sandwiches the entire mess.(39)

In Siberia it is exactly the same. Petrified forests in an uprooted condition but with some trees still in situ, bituminous trunks and fossilized charcoal, are everywhere intermingled with petrified ash, and veins of ice, and sand that has turned into sandstone. And among this colossal devastation are found the skeletons of mammoths, rhinoceroses, bison, and horses.(40)

If this is not a picture of catastrophe, what is?

What sort of tempest uprooted the trees? Whence the fire that carbonized them? What force tore and dismembered those thousands of beasts? What water deposited the sand? And whence the ice that covered them all?

As White himself saw fit to remind us, the few quasi-intact mammoth carcasses so far discovered do not constitute the rule. They are, on the contrary, the exceptions representing those few individuals who, through the vagaries of chance, managed to escape - if not with their life, at least with part of their body and skin intact. We can only learn so much from their remains. But we can learn an awful lot more from whatever is left of the hundreds of thousands of their slaughtered kin and the jumbled destruction amid which their remains are found.


1. H. Neuville, "On the Extinction of the Mammoth," Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 2590 (June 30, 1919), pp. 327 ff.
2. R. Moore, Man, Time, and Fossils (1953), pp. 274-275.
3. Z. V. Spinar, Life Before Man (London, 1973, reprinted edition), p. 170.
4. F. Rainey, "Archaeological Investigation in Central Alaska,"American Antiquity, V (1940), p. 305
5. Ibid.
6. W. Sullivan, Continents in Motion (N.Y.,1974), p. 36.
7. V. N. Sukachev, report of 1914, translated by N. Hapgood, in C. H. Hapgood, The Path of the Pole (Philadelphia, 1970), pp. 266-268; W. R. Farrand, "Frozen Mammoths and Modern Geology," Science, 133:3455 (1961), p. 731; H. F . Osborn, Proboseidea, Vol. II (N.Y., 1942), p. 1127.
8. For a complete list see J. Dillow, "The Catastrophic Deep-Freeze of the Berezovka Mammoth," Creation Research Society Quarterly, 14:1 (June 1977), pp. 6-8.
9. V. N. Sukachev in C. H. Hapgood, loc. cit.
10. These temperatures can be checked in almost any book on geography.
11. A. S. W. (initials only given), Nature (July 30, 1903), p. 298.
12. D. Cardona, 'The Problem of the Frozen Mammoths," KRONOS I:4 (Winter 1976), pp. 77-78.
13. W. E. D. Evans, The Chemistry of Death (Springfield, 1963), p.51.
14. J. Dillow, op. cit., p. 8.
15. Ibid. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid, pp. 10-11.
18. J.White, Pole Shift (N. Y., 1980), p. 17.
19. Ibid. 20. Ibid.
21. I. T. Sanderson, "Riddle of the Frozen Giants," Saturday Evening Post (Jan. 16, 1960), p. 82.; idem, More Things (N. Y.,1969), pp. 103 ff.
22. I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (N. Y.,1950), pp. 24 ff.; idem, Earth in Upheaval (N. Y., 1955), pp. 3 ff.
23. C. H. Hapgood, op. cit., pp. 249 ff.
24. I. Velikovsky, op. cit., p. 4.
25. Ibid.
26. D. G. Whitley, "The Ivory Islands in the Arctic Ocean," Journal of the Philosophical Society of Great Britain, XII (1910), p . 41.
27. F. Rainey, op. cit, pp. 301-307; F. C. Hibben, "Evidence of Early Man in Alaska," American Antiquity, V (1943), pp. 256-257.
28. W. R. Farrand, op. cit., p. 731.
29. J. Dillow, op. cit., p. 7.
30. F. P. Wrangell, Narrative of an Expedition to Siberia and the Polar Sea ( 1841), p. 173. NOTE: the thickness of these strata is actually given as 30 fathoms in this source, which works out to approximately 180 feet.
31. D. G. Whitley, op. cit., p. 49. 32. F. Rainey, loc. cit.; F. C. Hibben, loc. cit.
33. W. R. Farrand, op. cit., p. 730. NOTE: Farrand's own quote is from A. Heintz, Blyttia, 16 (1958), p. 122.
34. Ibid, p. 733.
35. John Armitage et al., "Ivory," Encyclopaedia Britannica (1959 edition), Vol.12, p.834.
36. J. Gorman, "The Making of a Fossil," Discover (Jan. 1981), pp. 64-65.
37. F. C. Hibben, op. cit., p. 256.
38. F. Hitching, The World Atlas of Mysteries (London, 1978-1979), p. 54.
39. F. C. Hibben, loc. cit.
40. D. C. Whitley, op. cit., p. 50.


Dr. Alta Price Responds:

Although White's claim that recent contributions by distinguished palaeontologists and biochemists prove that the mammoth remains under discussion show evidence of putrefaction in antiquity may impress the general reader, to anyone with expertise in histology and a knowledge of postmortem changes the evidence is inconclusive at best and distorted at worst. White cites reports published by various investigators describing the changes seen in mammoth tissues at the microscopic level to support his claim. As a pathologist with extensive training in histology (i.e., microscopic anatomy) and anatomic pathology at both the macroscopic and microscopic level, I would like to set the record straight with regard to histologic findings in mammoth tissue.

What is meant by putrefaction and what does it look like grossly and microscopically? To quickly grasp the gross (i.e., macroscopic) features of decay, I would suggest paging through any standard reference of forensic pathology. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, for those with weak stomachs I will quote from one such text:(1)

Putrefaction represents the process of destruction of body tissues caused primarily by anaerobic bacteria derived from the gastrointestinal tract in which coliform bacilli and Clostridium welchii are the principal agents. Other bacteria, molds, fungi, and cellular enzymes may all contribute to the final dissolution of the body's soft tissue.

Putrefaction is usually first evident as a greenish discoloration in the skin of the lower abdominal wall. This spreads to involve the whole of the abdominal wall and ultimately the skin of the entire body. Intravascular hemolysis [rupture of red blood cells within the blood vessels] with decomposition of the blood pigments causes staining of the vessel walls and makes the veins of the skin stand out prominently. Blisters form and there is "skin slippage" in which the superficial layers of the epidermis become loose so that they can be pushed from the underlying tissues with minimal pressure while the hair of the scalp can be peeled off like a wig.

Gas formation causes the body to swell. . . . Ultimately the whole body becomes so swollen and bloated that it is impossible to recognize the features. The tissues then slowly liquefy and there is ultimately complete dissolution of all soft tissues.

The whole mammoths which have been found are not described as showing the discoloration of skin, prominent veins, blisters, and severe bloating which are part of the putrefaction process. The preservation of any soft tissues of any portion of a mammoth, however torn or fragmented, is remarkable and precludes the "extensive putrefaction" claimed by White which would have caused those tissues to liquefy and disappear.

Of course, when White writes of extensive putrefaction he doesn't mean quite that extensive. It is obvious to the general reader that usually the soft parts of a body rapidly degenerate and disappear and that something, presumably freezing, must have retarded this process in the case of many mammoth remains. However, by claiming extensive putrefaction at the microscopic level, the uniformitarian hopes to circumvent the evidence of remarkable preservation that anyone can appreciate at the gross level (i.e., the preservation of stomach contents, the preservation of complete carcasses, etc.). It is equally obvious to the pathologist that putrefaction at the microscopic level has not been any more extensive than that at the gross level and that there is no evidence whatsoever that those changes which can be appreciated with the microscope occurred before freezing became complete.

First let us examine the references that White cites to support his claim of microscopic evidence for putrefaction before freezing became complete. White relies heavily on an article by Zimmerman and Tedford.(2) Zimmerman and Tedford examined the mummified remains of a variety of late Pleistocene Alaskan mammals collected in the Fairbanks district of Alaska. These included the face and right forefoot of an immature woolly mammoth, nearly complete remains of a rabbit, a Iynx, a lemming (or vole), and marrow from a horse canon bone. The mammoth was estimated to be 21,000 + 1300 years old by carbon-14 dating. On the basis of stratigraphic evidence the lynx, rabbit, and lemming (or vole) were estimated to be 15,000-25,000 years old. The authors rehydrated tissue samples from each animal, processed the tissue to enable microscopic slides to be made, and studied the histologic structure by light microscopy.

Reporting Zimmerman's and Tedford's findings, White states that "most of the tissues, upon histological section, reveal cellular disruption consistent with putrefaction degradation. Moreover, putrefaction in antiquity, before the animal became completely frozen is sometimes so extensive that much of the flesh is replaced, one-for-one, by the mycelium of the bacteria responsible for the putrefactive decay . . ." Unless White read only the abstract of the reference he cites it is difficult to see how he reached these conclusions.

The first misconception to be cleared up is the idea that much of the flesh of the mammoth was replaced by bacterial organisms. Actually, no bacteria were described in the mammoth at all. The liver of the rabbit apparently showed disintegration of the liver cells and their replacement by "masses of bacteria". Since the topic at hand is mammoths and not rabbits it is perhaps best not to discuss the significance of bacteria in frozen, ancient tissue at this time.

What histologic findings are described by Zimmerman and Tedford in the mammoth tissue they studied? They report that "the mammoth eye showed preservation of the extraorbital skeletal muscles" with "preservation of the cross-striations characteristic of skeletal muscle". No other structures could be identified in the eye. "No traces of histologic structure were seen in the other tissues examined, including the . . . skin and muscle of the mammoth." Zimmerman and Tedford make no other mention of the histology of the mammoth tissue.

In other words, what Zimmerman and Tedford found in the skin and muscle of the mammoth was the absence of histologic structure. It is important to understand what is meant by the lack of histologic structure as this is indeed what mammoth tissues often show under the microscope.

To understand the lack of histologic structure it is necessary to have some understanding of the appearance of tissues in the presence of histologic structure. In other words, what is the histology of fresh tissue as seen under the microscope? Briefly, tissue consists of cells and the substances which they secrete into the spaces between them. Each cell has a distinct and easily identified nucleus and a cell membrane around its periphery which is also easily identified microscopically (not in all cells, however). Tissue and cells can be identified by the shape, size, and staining characteristics of the cells and nuclei.

Cells which have died sometime before the microscopic slide is prepared show certain changes in the absence of special preserving mechanisms, such as chemical fixatives. For example, after an animal dies nutrients no longer reach the cells and waste products build up. The cells undergo progressive damage which eventually becomes irreversible and cell death occurs. One of the changes of cell death which is easily identified microscopically is disintegration and disappearance of the nucleus. In time, the cell membranes also degenerate and all that can be seen is a smudge of debris without any histologic structure. This is the finding described by Zimmerman and Tedford in the skin and muscle of the mammoth they studied.

White is correct in calling this loss of histologic structure "cellular disruption consistent with putrefactive degradation", as it is indeed a type of decay. It is the type of decay found in all mummified human tissues which have been examined, although it varies in degree with the extent of preservation of the mummy and the age of the mummy.(3,4,5,6) Frozen human remains are rare, but Zimmerman and Smith reported the autopsy findings of a frozen Eskimo woman thought to have died 1,600 years ago. They described the absence of nuclei in most of the tissues and made the comment that this is usual in mummified tissue.(7) That the same changes are found in mammoth tissue which has been frozen for 21,000 years should not be surprising. In fact, regarding their findings in the mammoth tissue, Zimmerman and Tedford state that "our study demonstrates the preservative effect of freezing and subsequent mummification to last much longer than previously suspected".(8) In other words, the surprising finding was the preservation of the extraocular skeletal muscles of the mammoth. The loss of histologic structure described in the rest of the mammoth tissue (skin and muscle) was the anticipated consequence of 21,000 years in the frozen state.

Granted that tissue from frozen mammoths does not appear the same under the microscope as fresh tissue, but rather resembles other mummified tissue, is there anything specific about the changes seen which indicates onset prior to freezing? The answer to this question is no. It is possible that some cellular degeneration did occur prior to freezing, since it takes a certain amount of time to freeze a mammoth carcass at any temperature. As has been pointed out by others, mammoth tissue may also undergo decay in modern times between the time of the initial thawing, the time of discovery, and the time of microscopic exarnination.(9) This "modern putrefaction" would be expected to cause exactly the same type of histologic changes which are indeed seen, but which are attributed by White to "putrefaction in antiquity".

In addition to decay before freezing and decay after thawing, several other hypotheses explain the data at least as well. First it should be noted that freezing does not completely halt decay and that some decay of the tissue, albeit very slow, would occur even while frozen. Of course, putrefaction due to bacteria or cellular enzymes would not occur, since these agents are inactive at low temperatures. However, the complex organic molecules forming the structure of the cells must undergo some degradation since chemical processes do not stop completely until the temperature approaches absolute zero. Extremely low temperatures can be used in the laboratory to preserve cells for long periods of time, but these temperatures are much colder than Siberian or Alaskan permafrost and the length of storage is very short compared to the age of the mammoth remains.

Although there is no way to know how much chemical degradation while frozen contributed to the overall decay, it is certain that desiccation continues even in the frozen state. Since frozen mammoth tissue resembles other mummified remains it seems to me that the most likely explanation for the histologic findings is desiccation while frozen.

Another possible explanation for the loss of histologic structure is that this change may be a consequence of the actual process of thawing.(10) After thousands of years, even though frozen, the complex molecules forming the structural framework of the cells would have degraded to the point that only the rigidity of the ice crystals preserved the original structure of the tissue. Upon thawing, any remaining framework would collapse, leaving no trace of histologic structure. An interesting study to test this hypothesis would be to examine frozen tissue of a mammoth that had never been thawed. A "frozen section" could be cut and examined microscopically the same way tissue from patients is examined during surgery. If thawing itself is responsible for much of the deterioration, sections prepared in this manner would be expected to show better preservation. (Of course, never-thawed mammoth tissue is not readily available for study.)

Some support for this last hypothesis is found in reports of mammoth muscle which looked fresh while frozen, but became "rotten" immediately upon thawing. Pfizenmayer says regarding part of the flesh of the Beresovka mammoth:(11)

As long as it was frozen it had a quite fresh and healthy appearance and a dark-red colour like that of frozen reindeer or horseflesh, but it was considerably coarser in fiber. As soon as it thawed, however, it entirely changed its appearance. It became flabby and grey, and gave off a repulsive ammoniacal stench that pervaded everything.

Much has been made of reports by early investigators of the odor peculiar to thawing mammoths and the ground surrounding them. The information available indicates that the decomposition of the mammoth tissues results in a characteristically unpleasant odor. However, this odor, whether emanating from mammoth or soil, is as nonspecific as to the time of onset of decay as the other evidence discussed above. Certainly the mammoth remains themselves would be expected to smell the same whether the decomposition occurred in modern times or in antiquity.

The early reports are not detailed enough to answer the question as to when the soil around the mammoths acquired its odor. Tolmachoff says the following about the odor of mammoth remains:(11a)

All travelers also used to say that the carcasses of the mammoth as a rule had an intolerable putrid smell. As in no case a scientist had a chance to examine mammoth flesh immediately after the animal had been discovered, but usually a year, two, or more later, it appeared correct to attribute these conditions to putrefaction which took place after the uncovering of a carcass. But a strong smell is peculiar to the mammoth localities and to the ground within which remnants are buried, even when they are concealed within and, presumably, still firmly frozen.

It is clear from what Tolmachoff writes that by the time the scientists made their observations the mammoths had thawed. Therefore, the odor of the soil described by those scientists could have been due to putrefaction in modern times. It is not clear from Tolmachoff's statement (which is not referenced) exactly who reported the smell peculiar to the ground around the mammoths when they were "presumably" still firmly frozen. It would seem that either the natives or early travelers described the odor, but whoever it was did not give enough information to enable us to resolve the issue of time of onset of decay. How deeply buried were the remains? How far into the soil did the odor extend? And, of course, it is essential to know rather than merely to presume that the mammoth remains were firmly frozen and, furthermore, that no portion of them had ever thawed. If that portion of the carcass closest to the surface was subject to intermittent thawing, decay could have started in that portion while most of the mammoth remained frozen. If the odor was as potent as stated, even a small amount of decay could result in a strong odor in the surrounding soil.

Even if it can be shown that never-thawed mammoths are surrounded by odoriferous soil, which is unlikely at least for those mammoths examined by early investigators, the possibility of decay while frozen still has to be disproven before the odor can be attributed to putrefaction before freezing. Although it seems unlikely that decay while frozen would result in an odor in the surrounding soil it is not impossible that the organic compounds responsible for the odor might be produced by slow chemical degradation and might be able to penetrate frozen ground. This process would of course be very slow, but thousands of years are available.

The other evidence brought forth by White is no more specific for decay before freezing than the histologic changes, which could have occurred before, during, or after the frozen state. For example, the changes described in the structure and constituent proteins of mammoth hair, in the article cited by White, are attributed by the author of the article to proteolytic enzymes which acted before the mammoth was frozen.(12) However, the only conclusion that can be drawn from the data presented is that decay has probably occurred. One hypothesis is that the decay was due to "antique proteolysis by putrefactive enzymes". Other hypotheses include slow changes occurring during thousands of years in the frozen state and decomposition during or since thawing.

I am aware of no published reports describing histologic changes in mammoth tissue specific for decay before freezing. The "deeply penetrating chemical alteration as a result of very slow decay"(13) described by Tolmachoff in 1929 and subsequently cited by Farrand(14) is almost certainly the same nonspecific change that a pathologist today would call "no trace of histologic structure".

In conclusion, it is remarkable to find preserved soft tissues and even whole carcasses of animals that died thousands of years ago. The excellent preservation suggests that they were frozen shortly after death. The changes seen at the microscopic level in much of the mammoth tissue resemble those seen in any mummified tissue. Certainly there is nothing to indicate that the histologic changes occurred before freezing, as similar changes might be expected after thousands of years in the frozen state, during thawing, or after thawing. The only surprising histologic findings are the exceptional preservation of some of the tissues. These include extraocular muscles with preserved cross-striations,(15) well preserved hair follicles in skin,(16) and the oldest intact red blood cells in the world.(17) This remarkable state of preservation is not consistent with extensive putrefaction in antiquity or at any other time.


1. W. J. Curran, A. L. McGarry, and C. S. Petty, Modern Legal Medicine, Psychiatry, and Forensic Science (Phila., 1980),p. 160.
2. M. R. Zimmerman and R. H. Tedford, Science 194:183-184 (1976).
3. M. J . Allison and E. Gerszten, Paleopathology in Peruvian Mummies: Application of Modern Techniques (Richmond, 1977), p. 20.
4. A. Cockburn, R. A. Barrow, T. A. Reyman, W. H. Peck, Science 187:1155-1160 (1975).
5. M. R. Zimmerman et al., Arch. Pathol. Lab. Med. 105 :638-641 (1981).
6. F. Stenn, Arch. Pathol. Lab. Med. 105:633-637 (1981).
7. M. R. Zimmerman and G. S. Smith, Bull. N. Y. Acad. Med. 51 :828-837 (1975).
8. M. R. Zimmerman and R. H. Tedford, op. cit.
9. D. Cardona, KRONOS I:4, pp. 77-85 (1976).
10. This idea was suggested to me by Dr. M. Ibanez at M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston, TX. Dr. Ibanez was one of the pathologists whose pioneering work in the use of frozen section diagnosis led to the method currently in use to freeze and examine tissue from patients at the time of surgery.
11. E. W. Pfizenmayer, Siberian Man and Mammoth (London, 1939), p. 103.
1 la. I. P. Tolmachoff, op. cit.
12. J. M. Gillespie, Science 170:1100-1101 (1970).
13. 1. P. Tolmachoff, Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. 23:60 (1929).
14. W. R. Farrand, Science 133:729-735 (1961).
15. Zimmerman and Tedford, op. cit.
16. M. L. Ryder, Nature 249:190-192 (1974).
17. These intact red blood cells were found by Dr. Morris Goodman and reported at the March 1981 meeting of the Paleopathology Club in Chicago. See also Science News (5/10/80), p. 301.

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