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Mammoth: The Resurrection Of An Ice Age Giant [Paperback]

Richard Stone
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 18, 2001 0738202819 978-0738202815
No fabled creature of the Pleistocene Era has a more powerful hold on the imagination than does the woolly mammoth. Cave paintings of the giant beasts hint at the profound role they played in early human culture-our Ice Age ancestors built igloo-shaped huts out of mammoth bones and even feasted on mammoth tongues. Eager to uncover more clues to this mystical prehistoric age, explorers since the time of Peter the Great have scoured Siberia for mammoth remains. Now a new generation of explorers has taken to the tundra. Armed with GPS, ground-penetrating radar, and Soviet-era military helicopters, they seek an elusive prize: a mammoth carcass that will help determine how the creature lived, how it died-and how it might be brought back to life.In this adventure-filled narrative, science writer Richard Stone follows two teams of explorers-one Russian/Japanese, the other a French-led consortium-as they battle bitter cold, high winds, supply shortages, and the deeply rooted superstitions of indigenous peoples who fear the consequences of awakening the "rat beneath the ice." Stone travels from St. Petersburg to the Arctic Circle, from the North Sea to high-tech Japanese laboratories, as he traces the sometimes-surreal quest of these intrepid scientists, whose work could well rewrite our planet's evolutionary history. A riveting tale of high-stakes adventure and scientific hubris, Mammoth is also an intellectual voyage through uncharted moral terrain, as we confront the promise and peril of resurrecting creatures from the deep past.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park introduced readers to the once improbable notion that, thanks to advances in genetic science, dinosaurs could be brought back from the grave. Richard Stone's Mammoth offers a kindred scenario: the establishment of a "Pleistocene Park," in which long-extinct creatures like the mammoth, saber-toothed tiger, and woolly rhino could be resurrected and given sanctuary.

This is not a science-fiction vision, we learn from science journalist Stone's absorbing journey into recent prehistory. Already, scientists from Russia, Canada, the United States, and other nations are studying the possibility of restoring a stretch of northern Siberia to its Pleistocene condition, thereby creating what they call a "mammoth steppe" populated by bison, Yakutian horses, and elephants--and one day, perhaps, creatures such as the woolly mammoth, genetically "summoned from the world of the dead." The materials are readily available, Stone writes, in the form of DNA-bearing "muscles and ligaments and fat" found in mammoths now buried in arctic permafrost. Whether those remnants can be made to bring back to life what Siberians call the "rat beneath the ice" is another question, but it's one that many scholars are busily exploring.

While looking into what he calls a "watershed in efforts to study lost ecosystems," Stone provides a lively natural history of the mammoth and evaluates conflicting theories on its extinction. His book makes for a memorable journey into unknown scientific territory--and a glimpse at a possible future that is surpassing strange. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

In March 2000, 10 million Discovery Channel viewers watched scientists airlift a 23-ton chunk of Siberian permafrost containing a still-frozen woolly mammoth carcass. Stone, Science magazine's European news editor, describes the banal events preceding the extraordinary excavation: a young boy sees a tusk protruding from the ground; his father and uncle unearth and sell the tusk to an arctic explorer, whose excavation plans conflict with the local Dolgan people's reverence for the earth; the red tape-tangled Russian government cooperates. Stone interviews the top mammoth experts and documents the most significant excavations of the past two centuries. These once abundant "great shaggy beasts," cousins of modern Asian and African elephants, suddenly went extinct at the end of the Great Ice Age some 11,000 years ago. Three well-balanced chapters explore the primary, and often conflicting, theories on mammoth extinction: shifting weather patterns caused by climate change, overhunting by humans and a "hyperdisease" passed from humans to mammoths. Certain scientists, Stone says, not only want to understand the mammoth's disappearance they also hope to bring the beast back to life. He recounts the pioneering, controversial efforts of some Japanese scientists, who hope to recover enough well-preserved tissue to create either an elephant-mammoth hybrid or a mammoth clone. Stone professes his own belief that, someday, "woolly mammoths will once again walk the earth." Exploring the environmental ramifications of bringing extinct animals back to life, and invoking Jurassic Park, Stone describes an ambitious plan to restore the prehistoric mammoth steppe habitat in Siberia. Although sometimes digressive and overly detailed, his account offers a provocative look at the world of today's mammoth hunters.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (September 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738202819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738202815
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,927,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mammoth primer and more July 3, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is enjoyable to read and packed with information. Richard Stone does a great job with the mostly scientific material while keeping it entertaining with descriptions of travel to Siberia. This book is an excellent primer on mammoths--their biology, their fossil record, the history of their discovery by humans, the theories of their extinction--and it has a bibliography if you would like to know more. But it is more than that. In discussing current research on mammoths, he covers paleontolgy, arctic exploration, Russian history, genetics, molecular biology, biogeography, and anthropology, and handles all of them equally well. The center piece of the book is the expedition to unearth the Jarkov mammoth and thaw it slowly to find out how intact it is (you would be surprised how many intact frozen mammoths have gone on record as having been left to the wolves to eat or fed to dogs, or just left to rot--what a waste!). The book ends with some uncertainty about how valuable the Jarkov mammoth will be, but that did not distract me from finding this a very satisfying book.
One small thing that would have made this book better is a graphic depiction of a timeline of the Pleistocene. I have trouble keeping my dates straight.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mammoth: The Resurrection of an Ice Age Giant November 2, 2001
I liked this book because, as every great book should, it stimulated my curiosty and imagination. It made the little-known,long extinct animal come to life. I could picture Dima, the baby mammoth, as he lay dying in a frozen Siberian steppe 40,000 years ago, starving without his mother's milk. I could also feel the bitter-cold howling winds as explorers were searching for mammoth remains.
The book raises questions to which there are no answers yet, such as how did mammoths become extinct and could they be "brought back" with the help of modern technology. This makes one ponder the ethics of cloning and then breeding pre-historic animals in today's environment.
Last but not least, the book made me realize that even in this age of ever-present internet there are still true hands-on adventurers out there, determined and dedicated individuals who are conquering new frontiers in search of unknown and little-known phenomena.
And, of course, there are writers to write about it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mammoth: The Resurrection of an Ice Age Giant January 19, 2003
Mammoth: THe Resurrection of an Ice Age Giant written by Richard Stone is a book about adventure, but not just your oridinary adventure. The Adventure here is about the unearthing of giant animals from the Pleistocene Era... Giant Wooly Mammoths in the permafrost of Siberia. This is a very provocative book as the science is beautifully clear.
The Wooly Mammoth roamed Europe, Asia and North America and grew to huge proportions, but later became extinct and all that we know of their existance is being uncovered by some very good scientific research. Now, a new generation of explorers has taken up the challange, to find out more about the mammoth and the life and times that existed during their lifetimes. Armed with ground-penetrating radar, GPS, and helecopters the large expanse of Siberia is begins to yield some interesting finds and the clues that go along with more and more information.
There is promiss in this book that once again the mammoth may live... how you say can this happen... well through DNA and cloning. This book takes you on a rigerous adventure through frontiers of science. Yes, theoretically it can be done, but this book examins both the profound philosophical questions about the risks and morality of executing these efforts. Liken to "Jurassic Park," you say.. and you would be correct.
Theories exist as to why the mammoth did out and became extinct... one of which is the overchill theory as the Earth became increasingly cooler the food supply for the mammoth became less and less forage for the animal, next the psychological change of being penned in by dense forest and glacier. Mammoth were used to living in the Northern cooler climates as is evidece in the finds of today. So much so, as there are finds in the small islands of the Arctic Ocean.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Quick Read April 3, 2005
This book is a very interesting discussion of three topics:

1) Why did the mammoths go extinct?

2) Is it possible (and desirable/ethical) to bring back the mammoths via cloning or interbreeding with modern elephants?

3) How did the demise of the mammoth and similar large mammals affect the vegetation and climate of the areas in which they lived (in this case Siberia). Russian scientists theorize that when the mammoths no longer grazed and churned up the ancient grasslands, the vegetation changed completely, into the tundra-wasteland that it is today.

Overall a very enjoyable short book that does not try to puff up the page count with hundreds of pages of irrelevant material.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Shaggy Elephant Story January 24, 2004
This fascinating little book is about a large and extinct creature, the mammoth. Evidence of this creature, which last walked the earth 37 centuries ago, seems to be scattered all over the place in North America and in Siberia. This book describes the work of a mixed band of mammoth enthusiasts as they search for mammoths frozen in the tundra of Russia's Far North.
There is an international cast in this story-a French arctic travel guide, Russian academics, Japanese experts in reproductive science, a Dutch amateur with a house stuffed with mammoth bones and, of course, the folks at the Discovery Channel trying to make this all into Good Television or, at least, Show Biz. Unfortunately, this book comes a bit too early--biotechnology has not advanced to the point where a mammoth might be cloned from scattered remnants of DNA and a superb specimen, frozen in the ice with useful bits intact, had not been found by the time the book went to press. Instead, author Richard Stone does an admirable job in sewing parts together to tell this story.
We learn that the inhabitants of Siberia believe that digging up the bones of mammoths brings bad luck, but there is nothing wrong with taking tusks when they are found. Huge numbers of tusks, estimated from 50,000 animals, have been shipped out in the last century. Scientists made arduous journeys trying to discover more about mammoths and our strong interest in them continues to this day. The book details how mammoths probably lived and alternative explanations about how they became extinct--through climactic change, being hunted or wiped out by disease.
This is quite interesting and the sections about cloning mammoths are highly imaginative and entertaining. Mr.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Engrossing!
This was a fascinating book as Stone presented his research into the possibilities of cloning mammoth's from DNA samples found in the frozen tundra, as well as some speculation... Read more
Published on March 31, 2009 by Yolanda S. Bean
2.0 out of 5 stars Mildly interesting
There is surprisingly little about the project of cloning mammoths. I'm not really sure what it's about; it's disorganized and kind of all over the place. Read more
Published on March 8, 2009 by N. Perz
4.0 out of 5 stars Mammoth-size information . . . Minute-size conclusions
This book contains valuable references to and quotations from across the tundra of perspectives of how/why/when the mammoths died off. Read more
Published on September 11, 2006 by Lawyer4Free
4.0 out of 5 stars Mammoths, Mammoths, everywhere...
The Woolly Mammoth, long gone from the world but not yet forgotten, was a major source of food, fuel and material for our early ancestors. Read more
Published on February 26, 2006 by Michael Valdivielso
2.0 out of 5 stars Big mammoth--No Hat
This book is a dreadful disappointment because the expedition was a bust. As a result, the author has injected a tedious history of mammoth hunting into the story--which is the... Read more
Published on January 29, 2002 by William M. Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Titan
Richard Stone's "Mammoth" opens the mind's eye to vivid and unexpected worlds of discovery - past, present, and future, from Pleistocene hunting parties who pursued the woolly... Read more
Published on December 16, 2001 by Glenn Garelik
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