Looking beyond the displays: A history of The Hull and East Riding Museum
Museums provide us with insight into history, but we rarely get a glimpse of the story behind the collection or building.
A popular feature of the Hull and East Riding Museum is the life-sized reconstruction of the iconic woolly mammoth.
Extinct for millennia, this great creature has been made world-famous by the entertaining film franchise Ice Age. Today, we’ve teamed up with Hull Museums to find out more about the magnificent beast.
Luckily, through the analysis of fossils, cave paintings and even frozen bodies in the Siberian permafrost, people have been able to piece together fragments to discover how these animals lived.
Incredibly, they walked the earth as early as 250,000 years ago. They lived in the subarctic tundra regions, where there was enough food for them to survive.
In fact, there has been evidence that these giants roamed around Hull and the East Riding around 75,000 years ago. Can you imagine a woolly strolling down Spring Bank?
Back then, this area would have usually been -20C in the winter, reaching highs of only 10C in the summer. So, we can never again complain about the weather!
Mammoths had a number of clever adaptations that allowed them to survive through these colder periods. One of the most obvious features is the thick, coarse hair that covered the mammoth’s body. This is, of course, where its alias of woolly mammoth derives from.
It is thought that on the underbelly, hair could grow up to one metre in length. What is even more mind-blowing is that underneath all this hair would be another dense undercoat of fine fur, which was around 2.5cm deep.
A mammoth’s skin was similar to that of the modern elephant, very thick and grey. Glands would release a fatty substance into the hair, which would protect the animal even further against the elements. When things got a bit too hot for the mammoth, they would shed.
Their large tusks, whilst also useful for self-defence and mating rituals, would primarily be used for clearing snow when searching for food. Amazingly, these huge curved teeth could reach lengths of five metres. Imagine the size of the tusks of an African elephant, and then double it.
Nevertheless, the elephants that we see today have much larger tails, ears and trunks than the woollies ever had. This was to prevent heat loss during the chilly seasons.
The ears of a mammoth would have measured around 30cm. Their trunks were also smaller and had two finger-like projections, which they used for grabbing and picking up food.
Contrary to popular belief, woollies weren’t that dissimilar in size to the elephants that we know and love today. They grew to about the size of an Indian Elephant, which is around 11 feet tall. Meanwhile, they weighed around the same as a double decker bus.
Their sheer size meant that they needed a lot of food. It has been suggested that these creatures spent over 80% of their day grazing and feeding. To stay alive, a fully-grown mammoth would need to eat more than 100kg of vegetation each day.
As you can imagine, their teeth were equipped for chewing the tough plants that grew in the tundra. They actually grew six sets of teeth during their lifetime.
You can find out even more about these majestic creatures at the Hull and East Riding Museum on the High Street.
Open Monday through Saturday 10am-5pm and Sundays from 11am-4:30pm, the museum is free to enter.