Cover image for Frozen fauna of the Mammoth Steppe : the story of Blue Babe
Title:
Frozen fauna of the Mammoth Steppe : the story of Blue Babe
Author:
Guthrie, R. Dale, 1936-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
xiv, 323 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780226311227

9780226311234
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Frozen mammals of the Ice Age, preserved for millennia in the tundra, have been a source of fascination and mystery since their first discovery over two centuries ago. These mummies, their ecology, and their preservation are the subject of this compelling book by paleontologist Dale Guthrie. The 1979 find of a frozen, extinct steppe bison in an Alaskan gold mine allowed him to undertake the first scientific excavation of an Ice Age mummy in North America and to test theories about these enigmatic frozen fauna.

The 36,000-year-old bison mummy, coated with blue mineral crystals, was dubbed "Blue Babe." Guthrie conveys the excitement of its excavation and shows how he made use of evidence from living animals, other Pleistocene mummies, Paleolithic art, and geological data. With photographs and scores of detailed drawings, he takes the reader through the excavation and subsequent detective work, analyzing the animal's carcass and its surroundings, the circumstances of its death, its appearance in life, the landscape it inhabited, and the processes of preservation by freezing. His examination shows that Blue Babe died in early winter, falling prey to lions that inhabited the Arctic during the Pleistocene era.

Guthrie uses information gleaned from his study of Blue Babe to provide a broad picture of bison evolutionary history and ecology, including speculations on the interactions of bison and Ice Age peoples. His description of the Mammoth Steppe as a cold, dry, grassy plain is based on an entirely new way of reading the fossil record.


Summary

Frozen mammals of the Ice Age, preserved for millennia in the tundra, have been a source of fascination and mystery since their first discovery over two centuries ago. These mummies, their ecology, and their preservation are the subject of this compelling book by paleontologist Dale Guthrie. The 1979 find of a frozen, extinct steppe bison in an Alaskan gold mine allowed him to undertake the first scientific excavation of an Ice Age mummy in North America and to test theories about these enigmatic frozen fauna.

The 36,000-year-old bison mummy, coated with blue mineral crystals, was dubbed "Blue Babe." Guthrie conveys the excitement of its excavation and shows how he made use of evidence from living animals, other Pleistocene mummies, Paleolithic art, and geological data. With photographs and scores of detailed drawings, he takes the reader through the excavation and subsequent detective work, analyzing the animal's carcass and its surroundings, the circumstances of its death, its appearance in life, the landscape it inhabited, and the processes of preservation by freezing. His examination shows that Blue Babe died in early winter, falling prey to lions that inhabited the Arctic during the Pleistocene era.

Guthrie uses information gleaned from his study of Blue Babe to provide a broad picture of bison evolutionary history and ecology, including speculations on the interactions of bison and Ice Age peoples. His description of the Mammoth Steppe as a cold, dry, grassy plain is based on an entirely new way of reading the fossil record.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

For about 200 years, people have known of frozen mammals (such as mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses) from Siberia, and studies of these refrigerated beasts have led to plausible as well as imaginary tales of their life histories and causes of death. Guthrie presents the story of the first, well-preserved North American example of an "iced" mammal, in this case a bison. He provides an intensive analysis of the animal including its discovery, excavation, and preparation for exhibition. In between he examines the causes of its death, using a breadth of evidence from the geological and paleoecologic settings associated with the bison. He makes extensive comparisons with frozen mammals excavated elsewhere in the Arctic. Guthrie asks many questions and seeks answers from a diverse array of data in order to provide a reasonable picture of the bison's life history, shape, systematics, time and cause of death, and ethology. There is an extended analysis of the biology of the Arctic steppe. The text is accompanied by many excellent freehand sketches of the bison, its contemporaries, and their behavioral interactions; but the photographs that are also included are muddy and not too useful. The text is well written, the content critical and thoughtful. Although there is some technical material, it does not slow the reader. Guthrie demonstrates how much can be learned from assiduous collection of data and intensive comparative analysis. This book should be in every public, high school, and college library. D. Bardack University of Illinois at Chicago


Choice Review

For about 200 years, people have known of frozen mammals (such as mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses) from Siberia, and studies of these refrigerated beasts have led to plausible as well as imaginary tales of their life histories and causes of death. Guthrie presents the story of the first, well-preserved North American example of an "iced" mammal, in this case a bison. He provides an intensive analysis of the animal including its discovery, excavation, and preparation for exhibition. In between he examines the causes of its death, using a breadth of evidence from the geological and paleoecologic settings associated with the bison. He makes extensive comparisons with frozen mammals excavated elsewhere in the Arctic. Guthrie asks many questions and seeks answers from a diverse array of data in order to provide a reasonable picture of the bison's life history, shape, systematics, time and cause of death, and ethology. There is an extended analysis of the biology of the Arctic steppe. The text is accompanied by many excellent freehand sketches of the bison, its contemporaries, and their behavioral interactions; but the photographs that are also included are muddy and not too useful. The text is well written, the content critical and thoughtful. Although there is some technical material, it does not slow the reader. Guthrie demonstrates how much can be learned from assiduous collection of data and intensive comparative analysis. This book should be in every public, high school, and college library. D. Bardack University of Illinois at Chicago


Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 The Curse of the Frozen Mammoths
2 Unearthing Blue Babe
3 Reconstructing Blue Babe's Death
4 Reconstructing Blue Babe's Appearance
5 Tracking Down Blue Babe's Missing Hump
6 Steppe Bison Ethology
7 Steppe Bison Ecology and Phylogeny
8 The Mammoth Steppe
9 Arguments and Controversies about the Mammoth Steppe
10 Bison Hunting on the Mammoth Steppe
11 Preparation and Exhibition of Blue Babe
Appendix A
Appendix B References
Index
Preface
Acknowledgments
1 The Curse of the Frozen Mammoths
2 Unearthing Blue Babe
3 Reconstructing Blue Babe's Death
4 Reconstructing Blue Babe's Appearance
5 Tracking Down Blue Babe's Missing Hump
6 Steppe Bison Ethology
7 Steppe Bison Ecology and Phylogeny
8 The Mammoth Steppe
9 Arguments and Controversies about the Mammoth Steppe
10 Bison Hunting on the Mammoth Steppe
11 Preparation and Exhibition of Blue Babe
Appendix A
Appendix B References
Index