Happy New Year! Here's a frozen mammoth stuck in a hillside that's been misidentified as a giant, burrowing rat:
This is from Strange Company: Wonder-Wings, Mullingongs, Colossi, etc. (1888) by Charles Frederick Holder.
Professor Holder was the inventor of big-game fishing and one of the founders of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade (which makes this topical for today, I guess, and gives me an excuse to post it), which he first suggested at a meeting of the Valley Hunt Club as a taunt at New Yorkers: "In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."
If a float featuring a frozen mammoth stuck in a hillside rendered in flowers hasn't been featured in the parade yet, it should.
The story behind the mammoth illustration and its caption obviously needs explaining. Basically, people in Siberia and China believed frozen mammoth corpses to be giant rats that used their large teeth to burrow underground and that died on exposure to sunlight. I would normally blockquote the passage from the source here, but there's something screwy with the text. I think the printer forgot to add some lines. So here's an excerpt from The Geological Magazine (1880) with a more authoritative explanation:
Having seen how early these Siberian deposits [of fossil mammoth ivory] were known in Europe, it will not surprise us to learn that they were known also in early times in China. When Tilesius wrote his famous memoir on the Mammoth found by Adams, he was supplied by Klaproth with some curious information from Chinese sources. He says, when he was at Kiachtu on the Chinese frontier in 1806, he learnt from several Chinese that Mammoths' bones were known to them, and were called Tien shu ya, Teeth of the Mouse, Tien shu. On turning to a Manchu dictionary, he found the statement that the beast Fyn shu is only found in a cold region on the river Tutungian, and as far north as the frozen ocean. "The beast is like a mouse, but the size of an elephant. It shuns the light and lives in dark holes in the earth. Its bones are white like elephant ivory, are easily worked and have no fissures, and its flesh is of a cold nature and very wholesome."
The great natural history written in the sixteenth century, and entitled Bun zoo gan rom, says—"The beast Tien shu is mentioned in the ancient ceremonial written in the fourth century B.C., and is called Fyn shu and In shu, i.e. 'the self-concealing mouse.' It is found in holes in the ground, has the appearance of a mouse, but is as large as a buffalo. It has no tail, and is of a dark colour. Its strength is very great, and it digs itself holes in the ground in hilly and woody places. Another writer says the Fyn shu frequents only dark and solitary places, and dies when it sees the rays of the sun or moon. Its feet are very short in comparison with its bulk, so that it travels only with difficulty. Its tail is about a Chinese ell long, its eyes very small, and its neck crooked. It is also stupid and inert." In a great flood on the river Tan Shuan in 1571, many Fin shu appeared on the plain (Klaproth, note to Tilesius, Menis. St. Pet. Acad., 5th ser. vol. 5, pp. 409—411). These notices are very curious, since they show that the Chinese from early times not only were acquainted with fossil ivory from Siberia, but also knew of the occurrence there of Mammoths with their flesh and skin intact. The notion that they were still living underground has been very generally held by the indigenes of Siberia, and is a natural conclusion from the occurrence of the bodies in such a perfect state of preservation. I have already quoted the statement of Erman in this behalf. As early as 1731 we find Theodore de Hare, in his Dissertatio et Observationes Sacrarum Sylloge, writes—"de Mammuth seu Maman quod animal in regionibus septentrionalibus sub terra vivere referunt."
Holder adds that Siberians reported "the rats often perished by trying to burrow in soft sand, when the treacherous material would pour in and smother them. Some had seen the animal alive in grottoes on the other side of Beresovsk, and all concurred in the belief that it died as soon as it saw the light", and that "certain Chinese literati ... explained the shocks of the earthquake by saying that they were caused by the movements of the great rat underground."
UPDATE (2013-01-02): The title of this post was inadvertently† the same (minus a definitive article) as that of a message from 1996 left on the newsgroup (remember those?) sci.archaeology by Reverend Colonel Ignatius Churchward Von Berlitz, which, as you may already have guessed, was titled "The Burrowing Mammoths of Siberia", and which included much more information about these little-known subterranean pachyderms. Since Google has decided to succumb to evil and clutter their newsgroup archives with appeals to join their social networking system, I have reproduced his message in full below:
Subject: The Burrowing Mammoths of Siberia
The Nail-Biting Climax to his Stirring 'Elephant Trilogy'
Reverend Colonel Ignatius Churchward Von Berlitz M.A. (Dom. Sci.) Oxon. (Oklahoma)
Mammoths are a Woolly Problem to the Siberian Archaeologist. Whilst unearthing his Tartar Encampment, he will frequently have to clear away dozens of these great carrot-topped beasts which he has Dug Up without meaning to. Indeed, the Ancient Yakuts came to rely on the Unearthing of these Deep-Frozen Proboscideans from the Permafrost as a Food Source, referring to the creatures as the 'Mountain of Meat', and thinking them to be huge mole-like creatures that burrowed under the ground. Today, it is known that the Mammoths were in fact exterminated by an Unidentified Cataclysm that froze them solid with tropical flowers still in their mouths and the sweat of an Equatorial Existence still running down their woolly arctic brows.
For years, Paleontologists have laughed at the Yakuts, thinking, How On Earth Could Something As Big As An Elephant Burrow Under The Ground. However, now the Shoe is on the Other Side Of The Face, as Primitive Cave Paintings clearly show Mammoths trapped in Pits being Mercilessly Speared by Bloodthirsty Yakuts, Uighurs, Ostyaks, and Trangiapans. These Cave Paintings have long been held to show the Uighurs' resourcefulness in digging Pits in which to Trap their Elephantine Enemy; but a simpler hypothesis appears when one Lathers the Problem Liberally and applies Von Berlitz's Hammer*. The Mammoths were in the Pit all along! The Uighurs merely Dug Them Up and Threw Spears At Them, possibly when the Mammoths came close to the surface to forage for juicy worms. These Mole Mammoths were evidently plentiful in Ancient Times, as is demonstrated by the vast quantity of hitherto unexplainable Tumuli dotted all over Illinois and Europe, some of which are so large that the Ancient Europeans and Illinoisians were able to Dig Into Them and Bury Dead People Inside. These Mounds are evidently Mammoth Molehills. Of course, it is known due to recent scholarly and intrepid research that Mammoths were also Aquatic, and propelled themselves through the icy waters of Loch Ness by vigorous flapping movements of their ears; therefore we can see that Mammoths were not simply 'Mole-Like', but in fact more similar to Voles and Beavers, creating Gigantic Tiny Holes in riverbanks and leaping out to surprise incredulous fish.
Of course, Norwegian Sailors' Tales tell of Colossal Ten-Armed Creatures, Big As An Elephant, that Pull Over Sea Vessels. There are few creatures in the Sea as big as an Elephant, except of course for Elephants and Whales; most Whales, however, are peaceful herbivores which browse on tiny marine krill plants. The only large Whale known not to be herbivorous is the Sperm Whale, which, if it were the size of a Man, would be able to swim a thousand miles through Treacle. However, the Sperm Whale (whose numbers are sadly declining due to vast quantities of False Oestrogens on the warheads of Japanese Whaling Harpoons) feeds on Giant Squid, not on Viking Longboats, and so these giant ten-armed creatures can be no whale. Instead, they must be Elephants, and the increase in Prehensile Appendages from One to Ten in Viking accounts can be ascribed to Fishermen's Exaggeration. Did not the Vikings exaggerate shamelessly as a matter of cultural course? Turn-of-the-Millenium records exist of the discovery of a marvellous, vast continent of unbounded opportunity by Viking Seapersons, for example, whereas what was in fact discovered was America.
Reverend Colonel Ignatius Churchward Von Berlitz M.A. (Dom. Sci.) Oxon. (Oklahoma)
* A safer tool than Occam's Razor, and one which may be entrusted to Small Children and Police Departments
(† Or was it? Rev. Col. Von Berlitz apparently posted to newsgroups via a psychic channel through one Dominic Green. However, it's unlikely any of his residual psychic force could have gotten through the many layers of aluminum surrounding my compound to implant that title in my subconscious. Probably just a coincidence.)
Meanwhile, in my guestbook, ZPi reader Kristjan noted that the existence of frozen mammoths has been used as evidence for some non-Koreshan Hollow Earth theories. Marshall Blutcher Gardner in his book A Journey to the Earth's Interior; or, Have the Poles Really Been Discovered (1913) argued that these mammoths could not be thousands of years old, as orthonoiac science holds, but that they recently walked (or burrowed?) out of the warm, sunlit interior surface of the earth and died from exposure to the much-colder exterior surface climate. The proof is in the edibility of their meat. His argument in full:
THE MAMMOTH AND THE MASTODON
I have spoken of a supposed time when the Arctic regions were the tropical part of the earth. One of the strongest proofs in support of my theory as outlined in the preceding pages has to do with a really wonderful Arctic discovery that is generally explained by invoking the conception of a once tropical region—a conception which I am not affirming or denying at this point. The proof referred to is this: Every reader of these pages is presumed to be familiar with the accounts of finding fossil remains of the mammoth and mastodon—two elephantlike animals but larger than any known animal of today—which inhabited tropical countries in ancient times. The discovery of such remains in the regions near the poles is advanced as proof that those regions were tropical once. But as early as 1806 and at intervals ever since then, something much more remarkable than mammoth bones have been found throughout the frozen north; that is, complete carcasses of these animals in the freshest possible condition have been discovered.
THE MAMMOTH BANQUET
The climax from the standpoint of dramatic interest in these stories came when it was reported several years ago in the newspapers that a professor of St. Petersburg had given a wonderful banquet to a number of his scientific friends in which everything eaten was supposed to have been thousands of years old. Wheat from Egyptian tombs and other preserved products from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum were among the items served, and the piece de resistance was fresh steak from the newly-discovered carcass of a mammoth.
I hope to convince the reader in the next few paragraphs that one item in this feast—the mammoth—was not so old as it was thought to be, but let us first refer to a few well-authenticated facts regarding the finding of these immense quadrupeds.
Is the claim that the mammoth are so found, a genuine one? For answer I first quote Dr. Eberhard Frass who used the following language in an article in "Die Woche," Berlin, on March 9 of the present year. The English quotation is taken from the Scientific American Supplement in whose pages it was reproduced in English. The German scientist says: "Mammoth is known to us better than any of its contemporaries, not only from finds of teeth and bone, but * * * by carcasses completely preserved even to the skin and hair, in the Siberian ice." That the flesh of these finds is fresh is sufficiently shown by the fact that it has been eaten at a banquet. That that was not a rare case, but is common, is shown by the facts about to be enumerated.
BETWEEN THE MAMMOTH'S TEETH
We have referred to the first recorded find of a fresh mammoth as being in 1806. That find was made by a Mr. Adams in the employ of the St. Petersburg museum. The carcass was no sooner exposed than bears took the first opportunity to devour what they could reach. Perhaps the most remarkable case, however, is of the mammoth found by Professor Henz of the St. Petersburg Zoological Museum in 1901 which was so perfectly preserved that its flesh was not only in perfect condition, but its stomach was full of undigested food, and the discoverer even found traces of its last meal between its teeth—and these traces were readily identifiable as vegetable matter because they had not decomposed in the slightest degree.
This statement is so extraordinary as to challenge credulity, and I, therefore, refer the reader to the pages of George Frederick Wright's "Asiatic Russia," where this discovery is detailed in the actual words of Professor Henz himself.
WHY THE MAMMOTH MEAT WAS FRESH
Now what is the bearing of all this upon my theory? Simply this: I claim that it is impossible for an animal living in a sub-tropical region—or even in a region which is bordering on the cold—to fall into a bog or gully and die there and lie there until the climate became such that ice covered the body and then be found to be in a perfectly preserved condition at the conclusion of the entire process of slow refrigeration. I claim that if these animals lived in a certain climate which was certainly not the present one—for they would be living still—and died by any means, and were afterward encased in ice, they would practically decompose in the interval between their death and their encasement in the ice. Even if this process be assumed to be very rapid; even if we suppose—as some investigators have been driven to suppose—that the mammoth inhabited Siberia after it had become cold, there could not conceivably be such perfect preservation of the carcass as to avoid the decomposition of even the food between the teeth—this particular process being only a matter of hours as the mouth is the seat of great bacterial activity.
WHAT THE MAMMOTH PROVES
I claim that the only rational explanation of these discoveries is that the mammoth was alive after the Arctic regions had reached their coldest, and that the carcasses now being discovered are those of animals which have fallen into ice crevasses after the latter had been formed, and were frozen to death instantly. Only on this assumption can we explain the entire absence of decomposition. But, as these mammoth do not live in the Arctic regions now, they must, therefore, live in the sun-lit interior of the earth. Being by nature wanderers and perhaps, by gradual adaptation, fitted themselves for a colder climate than the sub-tropical (those found in Siberia had thick hair) they have taken to living near the polar openings. For this reason it is quite possible that they sometimes wander too far from their habitats; become stranded on detached ice floes; or fall into crevasses in glaciers, and are, in that way, carried to the positions in which they have been found by modern explorers. This theory—and this theory alone—fits all the facts of these discoveries.
I might also add to this the possibility that the citizens of the Hollow Earth discovered monorail technology and the mammoths were fleeing for their lives. This would also explain why there has been no recent contact with people from the interior; they all died in spontaneous monorail combustions.