Yakutia – Land of the Mammoth

Yakutia is often called the Land of the Mammoth. Mammoths were once plentiful in the area of Yakutia before becoming extinct between 4000 and 10,000 years ago. Around 85% of all Mammoth remains have been found in Yakutia due to its unique permafrost environment. The permanent ice zone of Yakutia has helped to preserve the bones of the mammoth extremely well. Each year in the summer the permafrost thaws to around 3.5 meters exposing fossilised trilobites, mammoth footprints and even woolly mammoth bones. The Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk has one of the world’s most diverse collections of exhibits from the ice age. The centrepiece of the collection is the cryogenically (and completely) preserved head of a woolly mammoth. Indeed so well preserved are some of the remains that in March 2014 Siberian scientists claimed they have a ‘high chance’ to clone the woolly mammoth after the discovery of blood in a creature frozen 43,000 years ago.

Mammoths play an important role in Yakutian culture too: The tusks of the creatures often appear in symbols of the republic, coats of arms and in religious symbols; in winter mammoth tusks often form part of the decoration in ice sculptures; traditional arts such as mammoth ivory carving and ivory jewellery making are still practiced today; mammoth ivory is used for decoration on traditional clothes and in important ceremonies such as weddings, with the groom displaying a dagger with mammoth ivory hilt and scabbard. Yakuts are proud to be associated with the mammoth.