The Team at Fossil Coast Drinks Co took time out this week to visit The Box in Plymouth and discover the Mammoth Gallery one of its nine permanent galleries housing a life-sized mammoth replica called "Mildred" whose name means ‘gentle strength’.
The Box is a major new cultural and heritage museum, art gallery, and archive located near Drakes Circus at Tavistock Place. The Box was a collaboration between Plymouth City Council, in partnership with the University of Plymouth, and the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
Mildred is a very realistic replica created in the USA by Blue Rhino Studio a company that specialises in the fabrication of life-like exhibits for museums around the world.
The mammoth is among the megafauna that once roamed the South West during the ice age approximately 35,000 years ago before becoming extinct.
The mammoth could grow to 3 meters high at the shoulder. Interestingly, the Slavic word for “mammoth” is “mammut” that means “earth mole”. This was because the early mammoths had thick hairy coats and huge tusks and were found underground in the frozen tundra of Siberia.
Over the years Devon and Dorset have uncovered several remains of “megafauna” such as the Woolly Mammonth (Mammuthus primigenius) alongside others including the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), hyena (Crocuta crocuta), cave bears (Ursus denigeri & Ursus spelaeus), cave lion (Panthera leo), sabre-toothed cat (Homotherium latidens), horse, reindeer, mountain hare, wolf (Canis lupus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes).
We are currently living during the Quaternary a geologic unit of time that began 1.6 million years ago and still continues through to the present day. The Quaternary and specifically the epoch known as the Pleistocene that ended only 11,700 years ago is characterised by several periods of glaciation or ice ages.
There was never just one ice age but a series of recurring cold and warm periods lasting many thousands of years each time. The cold periods or ice ages were extreme with colder global temperatures and glacial expansion of ice sheets many kilometers thick.
Both the warmer and colder periods impacted vast areas of continents causing dramatic changes to the climate, and sea level, altered environments, and changed the ecosystems for plants (flora) and animals (fauna) to survive, flourish or simply become extinct.
Glaciers during each of the ice ages reshaped the landscape by picking up rocks and soil and eroding the landscape and the sheer weight depressed the Earth’s crust. The warmer periods known as interglacials were where the sea levels would rise as ice fields melted and both plant life and animals would flourish and the environment became more hospitable.
During the Pleistocene, there were three warm interglacial periods called the Cromerian (750,000 – 350,000 years ago), Hoxnian (250,000 – 200,000 years ago), and Ipswichian (125,000 – 72,000 years ago). These were interlinked with three cold ice age periods known as the Anglian (350,000 – 250,00 years ago), Wolstonian (200,000 – 125,000 years ago), and the last ice age known as the Devensian (72,000 – 12,000 years ago).
During the ice age, the fossil record of the South West of England also shows the earliest traces of humans dating back 500,000 found at Kent Cavens near Torquay. These bones and artifacts of human tools date back to the earliest recorded people known to be in Europe called Homo erectus followed by Homo sapien neanderthalensis (Neanderthal) and early Homo sapiens sapiens or modern human.
It often takes time for archaeologists and paleontologists to assess if ice age fossil remains are from a similar time period or existed at different points over a longer time span. The movement of water and land masses created areas where fossil remains were deposited from different eras. The recurring nature of these cold and warm periods often makes it difficult to date the time period of the fossils remains uncovered.
This location has an international reputation as one of Europe's most important prehistoric cave sites and is open to visitors. There are 120 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 33 countries around the world plus Kents Cavern is a member of the ice age Europe network of seventeen other heritage sites. In the UK there are seven Geoparks including the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark covering all of Torbay and the towns of Brixham, Paignton, Torquay, and Babbacombe, and the marine environment of Tor Bay.