Mammoth Questions

Considering the possibility of a mammoth return, and other questions about life on this planet.

Do you think when the mammoth return, they will know where they are?

You must have better questions. Ones that might actually relate––

They’re bringing it back, in Siberia. The mammoth.

Why? Is this an Elon Musk endeavor?

No, a biotech company. To break up the moss, restore the grasslands on the tundra.


Well, they are very large. They stomp around, knock over trees, fertilize. It helps––

No, how are they going to bring them back?

They’re working on a hybrid DNA. Apparently, the Asian elephant is a distant cousin. 

But why?

The idea is that there will be more.


No––well, yes, but what I mean is more extinctions. The thinking is that we need to intervene.

What about the wooly rhino, then?

Well, they’re not just going to start making creatures up. I mean, this isn’t a game––

No, they’re real. You have to see the baby one they found almost perfectly preserved. Named Sasha. He’s very cute.

That explains some of those cave paintings.

But what about the little mammoths they’re making? You have to wonder––

I told you. It’s a hybrid.

No, I mean what about them, really? 

You mean–––

Who mothers those little guys?

You mean if the others don’t recognize them?

And how will they know where they are?

This post was inspired by this morning’s reading of My Modern Met, which led me here:

Biotech Company Raises $15 Million to Bring the Wooly Mammoth Back to Life

Extremely Well-Preserved Woolly Rhino is Discovered in Siberia’s Melting Permafrost

House of Bones

Considering the first known examples of human architecture: dwellings made of mammoth bones.

They found them in the Ukraine in one of the Vietnam war years, in the year of Selma and the teenage sniper on the 101 and the launch of the world’s first in-space nuclear reactor. There were troops in the D.R. and the burning of draft cards and Muhammed Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in a rematch.

Phantom punch?

Right. It was Beatlemania and Watts and the Stones and Vatican II that year.

How did they find them?

It was just a jawbone at first. A farmer was expanding his cellar when he uncovered it. Then there were more bones.

How many? 

Hundreds, then thousands. They thought at first it was the site of a mass slaughter.

All mammoth? 

Yes. Then they noticed the patterns, the arrangement. Then they found more, and they figured that what they were looking at was one of the earliest known relics of human architecture.

People lived in the bones?

The tusks made an arched entryway. They created domes with the rest, covered them with skins. There were sometimes multiple domes in one area. Each could hold ten to one-hundred people. It is likely that there were ritual gatherings inside.

Day-to-day living, also?

Definitely. They would have to. Consider the cold. 

So, they were sheltered in the bones of the mammoth they had eaten?

And the bones they would gather.  

I am trying to imagine the quiet of that space, the uncompromised elegance.

Of living in the remains of the dead.

Of no one pretending otherwise.

Where everywhere you looked, there they were.

The remains, and you inside them.

Except it would be us, always us.

Always a group, breathing for a short time.

In the shelters assembled by living hands, from the remains.

As if to say, come in. Stay for a while.

As if to say, we are all going soon. 

As if to remind, this is shelter. Foxes have holes, birds their nests.

But the sons and daughters of men?

Only this.

For more about the 1965 discovery of the oldest surviving architecture, Jeremy Norman’s History of Information provides more information and a short video.