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Mammoths and Mastodons


Mammoth Sculpture, Page Museum La Brea Tar Pits, California

Mammoth Sculpture, Page Museum La Brea Tar Pits, California

Rons Log

Mammoths (Mammuthus primogenus) were a species of ancient extinct elephant. Mammoth adults were about 10 feet tall at the shoulder, with long tusks and a coat of long reddish or yellowish hair--which is why you'll sometimes see them described as woolly mammoths. They roamed Northern Europe and, eventually, North America.

Mastodons (Mammut americanum) were also ancient, enormous elephants, slightly smaller (6-10 feet tall), no hair, and restricted to the North America continent. Both of these megafauna died out at the end of the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, as part of the great megafaunal extinction. They were hunted by people, and various archaeological sites have been found around the world where the animals were killed and/or butchered. Mammoths and mastodons were exploited for meat, hide, bones, and sinew for food and other purposes, including house construction.

Mammoth kill sites

Murray Springs (USA), Naco site (USA)


Haynes, Gary 2002 The catastrophic extinction of North American mammoths and mastodonts. World Archaeology 33(3):391-416.

Kunz, Michael L., Daniel H. Mann, Paul E. Matheus, and Pamela Groves 1999 The life and times of Paleoindians in arctic Alaska. Arctic Research of the United States 13(Spring/Summer):33-39.

Wojtal, Piotr and Krzysztof Sobczyk 2005 Man and woolly mammoth at the Kraków Spadzista Street (B) – Taphonomy of the site. Journal of Archaeological Science 32(2):193-206.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Naco site, Arizona; Manis site, Washington; many many others.

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