Ice Age mammoth yields many secrets
Mammoths evolved from African elephants when the Ice Age set in. They were around twice the size of today’s elephants, weighed up to eight tons, and their long tusks helped them fight predators and pick grass and shrubs out of the ice.
Scientists could dissect Yuka or use infrared scanning to look at its organs and understand how mammoths managed to adapt to the harsh conditions. Using the body tissue, which is normally lost, they can also the latest technology to analyse its genome, raising the possibility of cloning a mammoth from the remains.
Experts believe it could yield a treasure trove of information from the past, not only about these creatures, but the early humans who lived alongside them during the Ice Age. The mammoth, which was three to four years old when it died, was found in the Ust-Yansky region of Yakutia, the remotest part of Siberia.
Most remarkable is the fact that it had two clean cuts on its back and several bones had been removed including its spine, skull, ribs and pelvis. The skull was found nearby.
A long straight cut stretches from its head to the centre of its back, as well as an “unusual patterned opening” on the right flank made of small serrations as if from a primitive saw-like tool. This skilful butchery could not have been the work of a predator such as a lion, and was probably the work of cavemen eking out a living during the Ice Age.
Although mammoths featured in cave paintings from the time, this is the first evidence that humans preyed on them in the days when ice sheets covered 40 percent of the northern hemisphere.
The find suggests humans may have contributed to their extinction, before the creatures were finally wiped out in the great thaw ten millennia ago.
The 6ft-long mammoth, nicknamed Yuka, appears to have escaped another predator at an earlier stage as it had a broken leg and other injuries which suggest an epic struggle.