Arctic region, Pleistocene epoch (Ice Age), ca. 35,000 years ago. A huge, curved fossilized mammoth tusk, polished to reveal the gorgeous black, dark brown, and creamy colors of the preserved organic matter. There are even a few areas near the root with a greenish-blue color that are the result of minerals seeping from the ground into the tusk as it lay in the earth. Size: 4.35" W x 36" H (11 cm x 91.4 cm)
While mammoths survived until ca. 5600 years ago on remote Alaskan islands, those animals had begun to shrink in size as the climate warmed from the end of the Ice Age ca. 10,000 years ago. A tusk of this size comes from deep within the Pleistocene, when the northern hemisphere was dominated by massive ice sheets drained by enormous glacial rivers and lakes. Imagine encountering this animal on an Ice Age steppe, towering up to 13 feet at the shoulder and weighing up to 12 tons, with this tusk and its partner rising in an upward curve from their jaw. Imagine the strength the animal's neck must have had just to hold up these massive teeth!
Also imagine walking in a modern Arctic or sub-Arctic landscape like Alaska, northern Canada, or Siberia and finding a tusk like this rising from the ground. The name mammoth comes from a Siberian word used to describe the tusks found there by native people, like the Khanty of the Irtysh River basin, and traded to Europe and China. Their occasional finds of massive tusks and even preserved mammoth bodies in the permafrost - often eroding out of the sides of river banks - led to their folkloric belief that mammoths were like huge rodents, dwelling underground, dying when they accidentally surfaced. With the invention of science as a discipline, massive tusks like this one continued to capture imaginations all over the world; for example, Thomas Jefferson, who was fascinated by paleontology, is credited with introducing the use of the word mammoth as an adjective to describe something very large.
Provenance: private Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA collection
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