Mammoths – Extinct, But Not Forgotten

Discovered in the village of Mezhyrich in the Cherkasy Oblast, and now exhibited at Kiev’s Zoological Museum, a dwelling made of enormous mammoth tusks reveals that these gigantic elephant-like creatures were once plentiful in this region of Ukraine. It is documented that Ukraine has the greatest number of mammoth-related discoveries in Europe, and researchers are of the opinion that mammoths still roamed the region up to thirteen thousand years ago. At that time the landscape was much different from the lush forests, sparkling rivers and picturesque lakes that characterize Ukraine. Instead the animals and humans living in the region were faced with dry summers, harsh winter conditions, and a terrain with sparse vegetation.

Researchers believe that humans lived in the territory now known as Ukraine up to thirty-five thousand years ago – an era commonly referred to as the Stone Age. Humans proved to be up to the challenge of living in harsh conditions and archeological discoveries, including artifacts fashioned from mammoth tusks and bones, and paintings on walls of caves, show that they coexisted with mammoths for an extended period of time. The initial discovery of mammoth bones gave rise to some tall tales about gigantic mythic creatures, but it was later confirmed by paleontologists that these fascinating animals had once existed.

It was in 1965 that a farmer in Mezhyrich discovered the lower jawbone of a mammoth while digging to expand the cellar of his house. Further excavations resulted in the discovery of four huts constructed from a total of 149 mammoth bones, along with fascinating artifacts such as a map etched onto a bone, amber ornaments, fossil shells and what is thought to be a drum, fashioned out of a mammoth skull and decorated with a red ochre pattern. Evidence also suggests that paleolithic humans hunted mammoths as a source of food, using their tusks, bones and hides to build their dwellings and for other practical purposes. It is not known for sure why mammoths no longer exist, but it is likely that climate change and being hunted by humans contributed to their extinction. Today, the reminder that these huge hairy animals once roamed in Ukraine is restricted to museums and archeological sites.