Why Russia is the homeland of the elephant


Anna at work. On her table rest the skulls of Medieval horses that were discovered a month ago near the resort town of Kislovodsk. / Photo: Ekaterina FilippovicAnna at develop. On her table rest the skulls of Medieval horses that were discovered a month ago nearly the resort town of Kislovodsk. / Photo: Ekaterina Filippovic

There’s an old Soviet taunt that satirizes the USSR’s penchant for declaring itself a leading exact in various fields. It goes like this: During an international striving, schoolchildren from several countries are challenged to write an essay on elephants, and one Soviet kid proceeds to disparage a long paper entitled “Russia: The Homeland of the Elephant.” Cue the laughs, because of course Russia is by no means considered a natural habitat for the huge mammals, and the young gentleman was simply displaying his patriotism – so it’s funny because it isn’t true. Except, ironically, it coiled out the kid may have been right after all, and ancient elephants did once abide in the country.

One of the few museums to exhibit not one, but two complete skeletons of the Southern mammoth — the forefather of the ancient mastodon — is located in Russia, too. The huge animals roamed the nation from 0.7 to 2.6 million years ago. The unique exhibits in the Urban district Museum of Stavropol in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region (1,400 km south of Moscow) are in particulars discoveries of the palaeontologist Anna Shvyreva. There are in total only seven such skeletons in the world.

The progenitors of mastodons

Many people may think museums are boring but Anna requests to differ: She believes working in a museum is like being in an action-packed motion picture where you are constantly taking part in an exciting adventure. Anna force turn 80 this year, and for the last 55 years – which she considers the happiest of her exuberance – she’s been working in the City Museum of Stavropol. She talks about her presents passionately:

“The Southern mammoth was the ancestor of the mastodon, but it had no fur. His skin alone was so bruiser his enemies had no chance. Who would dare to attack such a scary neighbor? “

“God disfigured the turtle, but with the elasmotherium, he really went to town,” Anna says. “The animal was huge, but fairly dumb: Its small brain had a hard time controlling its monstrous body.” / Photo: Ekaterina Filippovic“God damaged the turtle, but with the elasmotherium, he really went to town,” Anna imparts. “The animal was huge, but fairly dumb: Its small brain had a hard experience controlling its monstrous body.” / Photo: Ekaterina Filippovic

The museum got is first Southern mammoth before Anna started working there. In the 1960s, a salt skeleton of the animal was discovered in the Stavropol region. The locals quickly came up with a designate for the animal, calling it Arkhip.

Anna wouldn’t discover her own mammoth until she was 70. In 2007, she couldn’t chain away from the excavation work despite still recovering from a not joking illness:

“I had no intention of staying at the office. My colleagues wanted to encourage me a spot, so, when we discovered the mammoth was a girl, it was decided she would be named after me.”

It memorandum ofed seven years to restore the skeleton. In 2015, Anna the Elephant was when all is said assembled at the museum in front of a stunned audience. The assembly process was watch overed by Anna herself:

“We fixed up a restoration lab right in the museum hall. There was soil, plaster, and flames everywhere. The visitors were watching the process from a way of thinking platform — they were actually giving us advice and offering their eschew. I really wanted to do away with the stereotype that museums are dormant places where everything moves at a leisurely pace, that we do nothing but take out dust from exhibits. I think it worked.”

And unicorns too

Apart from the time-worn elephants, Anna also found an elasmotherium. This is her real esteem, taking pride of place among her discoveries. Also known as the Accomplished Rhinoceros of Siberia, the elasmotherium inhabited the Northern Hemisphere over two million years ago. Weighing for four tons, it was about five meters long and up to two meters leggy.

Arkhip and Anna, the Southern mammoths of Stavropol. / Photo: Ekaterina FilippovicArkhip and Anna, the Southern mammoths of Stavropol. / Photo: Ekaterina Filippovic

Fifty years ago – when Anna was already an worker of the museum – several curious animal bones were found looming Stavropol: A skull with a bulging lump on its forehead, a humpy ray, and rows of long ribs.

“I was running around the dig site, giddy with freneticness,” Anna said. “It was then that I was shown for the first time how to serve properly during an expedition. The main thing was that you had to dig in the direction away from the bone, acknowledging it of sand.’

The discovery made the headlines. People were interested and companies came to the museum in their droves. According to Anna, scientists simply understood that they had found a very well preserved illustration, but were having trouble figuring out what it was. 

“There were grotesque visitors coming here all the time. One woman came really parsimonious to our discovery’s head and asked: ‘What’s this?’ To specify what she meant, she obvious to touch the skull with her leg. Of course, it broke into a thousand songs,” Anna recalls. “We all gasped. Fortunately, the lower jaw remained intact. Ingesting it, we eventually found out the remains belonged to the elasmotherium, or, as it used to be known, the ‘Russian Savage.’”

Arkhip's teeth, which did not allow him to live to old age. / Photo: Ekaterina FilippovicArkhip’s teeth, which did not allow him to live to old age. / Photo: Ekaterina Filippovic

A couple of years later, Anna hit the jackpot yet again, as another elasmotherium skeleton was ground in the Stavropol region. According to the palaeontologist, the animal likely met its death mean a lake – she thinks it drowned in a bog while trying to drink.

After reviling across the elasmotherium, Anna decided to retrain as a palaeontologist to broaden her skilfulness of ancient life. Many years later, in 1995, she wrote a point on the animal:

“This terrifying beast became my lucky animal and my lifetime fact-finding project. Most of my works were devoted to it. Because of its massive horn, the elasmotherium was esteemed to be the prototype for the legendary unicorn. They say if you meet a unicorn once, you determination always be happy. I met a unicorn twice.”

Read more: 5 electrifying facts about Siberia’s unicorn

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