TUNDRA MAMMOTH - Mammuthus primigenius

Author: Bodo Muche - reference - WILDLIFE
Sunday, Dec 09, 2012

TUNDRA MAMMOTH - Mammuthus primigenius
TUNDRA MAMMOTH Mammuthus primigenius   
2012 bronze edition of eleven  30" x 20" x 15"




Tundra Mammoth  Mammuthus primigenius
I very much looked forward to making the sculpture of a Woolly Mammoth or Tundra Mammoth. Research filled gaps in my previously incomplete knowledge regarding evolution and anatomy of this now extinct species. Why this species became extinct is still a mystery. It took place during a presently much talked about period of Earth Warming 3.500 to 10.000 years ago.
I had the good fortune of having sat on peaks in the Brooks Range of Alaska, gazing out over an endless tundra towards the Arctic Ocean. Golden Eagles flew along the slopes or soared above me, below the snow and ice were white dots scattered on the slopes, weary Dall Sheep in the safety of their mountain Kingdom. Far below, in the tundra a golden grizzly was foraging and a few caribou were on the move.
20.000 years ago this beautiful picture would have been different. Tundra Mammoths would have been grazing on the tundra’s tussock grass and a new species of animal was invading the Americas. Groups of Homo sapiens, armed with stone and bone weapons were crossing the land bridge joining Siberia with Alaska.
Those people were hunters and gatherers and they would have killed Mammoths whenever the opportunity arose, as they did whence they came. Every success would have been a great celebration and a sumptuous feast. The bones of the Mammoth could be made into spear tips, knives, scrapers, tooth picks and awls, the hair would have been useful as thread and pillow fillings and the skin for ropes and sleighs.
It must be assumed, that a Mammoth bull would have had every so often activated must glands and that he, during this time of must, would be every bit as aggressive and destructive as the individuals of the two still surviving Elephant species. To hunt a Mammoth would have been very dangerous and the hunt may often have been disastrous. It must be understood, that those first immigrants to the Americas were of the same species as those who subsequently flocked to the Statue of Liberty. One has to ask oneself: Would these groups of people have stayed and hunted Mammoths until the Mammoths became extinct? Very unlikely, because they would have been smart enough not to persist in hunting Mammoths, a dangerous undertaking, which threatened their very own existence. They would have searched for other hunting grounds with less dangerous game and embarked on an exploration of the Americas until they all somehow settled down, harvesting the bounty nature provided sensibly and adopting to all sorts of conditions. In my humble opinion, the hunting and gathering people in the Americas would have become part of the ecology without making a detrimental impact on the survival of the Tundra Mammoth as a species.
Evolution had provided the Tundra Mammoth with specially designed tusks to act as snowploughs, which enabled these grass eaters to feed the year around. So, they did not run out of food.
The further north one travels in the Northern Hemisphere, the more biting insects one encounters. Mosquitoes, Gnats and Whitesocks make life in the Tundra during the summer months most unpleasant. Myriads of the blighters attack you constantly. I personally had an attack by Whitesocks, which made my fingers swell up like knackwurst . During the time of earth warming when the Tundra mammoths were about, an ideal breeding ground would have existed to facilitate the evolution and explosion of many of those biting insects. The anti coagulant injected by them could have made mouths, eyelids and the inside of the trunks swell up and cause callousness to the exposed skin. All this would make feeding, seeing and breathing difficult or impossible.
Another contribution to the demise of the Tundra Mammoth could have been their incapability to get rid of excess body heat. The African and the Indian Elephants have a median body temperature of 35.9 C.  The thin skinned back of their ears is covered with a spider web of capillaries. To prevent overheating, blood is pumped into these capillaries and ear flapping cools the blood, which is constantly recycled when the body temperature rises above the normal level.
The Tundra Mammoths had no such gadgetry in their tiny fur covered ears.  Having cute little ears and not having the means to get rid of excess body heat may have been part of the reason why this magnificent mammal became extinct.
All these thoughts were going through my head whilst making this sculpture. I took reference from the skeleton of a Tundra Mammoth mounted in the Museum of Natural History in New York. First I made an armature, which I interpreted in the position I wanted to bring the Mammoth back to life. The modelling in wet clay was most pleasurable, listening to my favourite pieces of classical music, adding to the armature muscles, body mass and fur. Mould making, wax for the lost wax process, chiselling, casting in bronze, chasing, patinating and finishing produced this piece.
Like with all my sculptures, my objects are to make you feel good when you see the piece, and if you are a blind person when you touch and explore it.
 Mount Glenhowden Park  November 2012