The Mammoth Room

Here visitors are transported back to a time over 22,000 years ago when mammoths roamed this area. The Mammoth Room is the Museum favourite. The experience of this tower room is somewhat like being in an old church: there is a feeling of timelessness, and visitors can meditate in the silence.



The first mammoths lived in Africa some 4 million years ago. From Africa they spread northward. With the increasing cold of the Ice Age 250,000 years ago the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) evolved on the European continent. This species also lived in Finland. Mammoths and modern elephants have a common ancestor and are closely related, rather like cousins. One hundred thousand years ago woolly mammoths thrived across a vast territory, from Western Europe to Eastern Siberia. Later they wandered across the Bering Strait, which was then dry land, to North America.

The so-called mammoth steppe was the main habitat of the woolly mammoth. The vegetation of the mammoth steppe was largely open and treeless, with abundant grasses, sedges, herbs, shrubs, and scattered trees. During the Ice Age the mammoth steppe covered vast areas south of the margin of the continental ice. Its vegetation has no precise modern equivalent. Woolly rhinoceroses, cave bears, reindeer, and horses shared this habitat with mammoths.

The woolly mammoth was no larger than an African elephant today. The fur of the woolly mammoth consisted of coarse, long outer hairs and shorter, thinner hairs that formed an undercoat. Because of their thick fur mammoths were well adapted to cold.

Tusks, especially those of males, were massive and strongly curved. Mammoths probably used their tusks like snowploughs to expose vegetation beneath the snow. Males fought by crashing their tusks down on a rival's back.

As far as is known, the large mammoths disappeared completely from the earth about 10,000 years ago, although on the islands of Wrangel in Siberia dwarf mammoths could still be found as recently as 3,000 years ago. There are at least two possible reasons why the mammoths became extinct. One is local hunting, which may have decreased their number, but this is hardly the only reason. Another, more significant explanation may be climate warming: 10,000 years ago grasslands were replaced by forests. Mammoths were not adapted to this kind of habitat.




The "Häkä" of Kuopio

The "Häkä" of Kuopio is an exact copy of a mammoth carcass found along the river Lena in Siberia. The copy was made by Eirik Granqvist, an artist and conservator living in southern France. The carcass had been found in 1799 by Ossip Shumakhov, a local hunter and ivory collector. This mammoth was about 320 cm tall and weighed around 5,000 kg. The Häkä's fur is made of the hides of musk oxen.

Only few authentic mammoths have been preserved in museums around the world. In Finland mammoth remains have been found in about ten places. All the finds have consisted of scattered bones or molars.

In October 1873 a peasant named Putkonen found a well-preserved mammoth's upper molar in Nilsiä, near Kuopio, an area in which mammoths are known to have lived. The Nilsiä molar is probably between 20,000 and 30,000 years old. The oldest of Finland's mammoth remains is over 40,000 years old and the youngest, under 20,000 years old.

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