It’s a bit of a mammoth price tag – but if you have a spare £400,000, you can be the proud owner of a family of WOOLLY MAMMOTH skeletons.
The four skeletons – which are thousands of years old – are going under the hammer later this month.
The set includes the skeleton of one fully grown male mammoth – standing at just over two metres tall – along with a mother and baby, and an adolescent female.
All the skeletons were found during building works in Tomsk, Siberia, in 2002 – and is the first time a family of this size has ever been found.
The eldest male is believed to be around 45 years old, and would have weighed almost three tonnes – although the family are thought to have perished about 10,000 years ago.
A spokesperson for Summer’s Place Auctions, which is selling the skeletons, said: “This skeleton and the following three lots are in excellent condition both in terms of bone quality but also completeness.
“The nature of their discovery as a group in fluvial deposits strongly suggests that their demise was a rapid event and that they were together before being overwhelmed by a cataclysmic disaster, giving us a remarkable insight into life around 10,000 years ago.
“The Mammoth is one of the great icons of extinction. Perhaps only Tyrannosaurus rex, the Dodo, or a long-necked dinosaur can compare with its graphic power.
“Even the word ‘mammoth’ has now transcended its original meaning and is now a synonym for huge size, strength, or great value. Its image is so familiar, and even though it is very much a prehistoric animal, the species survived until comparatively recent times; in human terms its existence is almost close enough to touch.
“On an autumn morning at the start of the 21st century, workers from a nearby construction site noticed that recent flooding had washed away tons of earth and sand close to the River Chulym in the Tomsk Region of Russia.
“This action of the water revealed something remarkable. The area was littered with bones – some of them very large – that had been preserved in ancient fluvial deposits. On investigation it was discovered that the bones belonged to mammoths that seemed to have died around 10,000 years ago in some kind of natural disaster.
“Certainly, there was no evidence that the hand of man had had anything to do with the deaths.”
Although its heyday was long, long ago, mammoths still survived in many places 10,000 years ago.
In earlier times herds of mammoths roamed over large areas of the world and fossilized fragments of bone or teeth are found in many places. But complete preserved skeletons are comparatively rare, and their preparation for museum exhibitions even rarer.
Because of their unique importance, these mammoths have been exhibited across Europe at various venues. In 2004 they were shown at Erbach in Germany, before moving on during the following year to Bad Belzig. Then in 2006 they were shown at Montreux in Switzerland and the next year in Fribourg.