At the beginning of September 1996, in the clay mines of factory
"Toza Markovic" AD in Kikinda, during regular exploitation of clay
for production, skeleton parts of Pleistocene proboscides were discovered. Engineer
of geology, Mileta Novovic, immediately informed Natural History Museum about
this discovery. The museum sent geologic sector team, Zoran Markovic, paleontologist,
and Milos Milivojevic, geologic preparatory, to the site and since that moment
voluminous excavations of fossil material started.
The skeleton was discovered at the depth of 21 meters, in the
so called "blue clay" which is the lowest level of exploitation of
the clay mine. Dynamics of excavation were dictated by the weather conditions
and the speed of deposit exploitation. When the hip bone, which was discovered
first, and vertebras were excavated, special care had to be paid because of
bone crazes caused by dredger grip. Preventive protection had to be applied
on the spot which then slowed the excavation. After discovery of these bones,
the new followed. Next to be discovered was the skull with excellently preserved
upper molars, and the first to show were the tips of tusks. The arrangement
of the tusks indicated to the upright position which significantly facilitated
further work. Parallel to uncovering, the tusks were bandaged by the wooden
clamps and wrapped by tensile foil to prevent their breaking and sudden drying
Lower jaw was found in the natural position with respect to the
skull, based on which it was possible to conclude that the animal died in situ.
Interesting was the occurrence of muddy liquid of characteristic smell, draining
from the foramen magnum in the skull originating from the brain envelope and
hoan. Looks and smell of the liquid indicated that due to sudden submerge of
the animal into the sludge, and also due to lack of the air, the organic matter
was not completely substituted by the sediment. Spinal column with ribs stretched
North West from the skull, where in the end the pelvis was discovered with joined
sacral whorls, standing as another proof of find in situ. Intermingled bones
of extremities lay directed towards the next level. Tiny bones were not completely
discovered; either because they were driven away by the water or the predators.
The most mysterious occurrence was lack of both shoulder blade bones. Hypothesis
that they have been driven by the water or predators is hardly acceptable (because
weight of individual bone with flesh is over 200 kg). More realistic assumption
is that it was done by a man of that time who used such and similar parts of
skeleton for covering shelters and for making tools (Lister et Bahn 1995).
Due to impossibility to excavate the skull and the tusks completely
in one, it was necessary to amputate the tusks in the level of alveoli. Parts
separated in this way were placed on the specially designed wooden sledges and
by means of bulldozer they were driven from the clay mines. They were then taken
to the conservation place in the bulldozer hand. The same procedure was used
for the pelvis and bulky bones of extremities, while the others were taken out
All that you should know about mammoths
Mammoths belong to the family of proboscides which evolved about
55 million years ago. The name comes from the Greek word proboskis. Evolution
of the proboscides started with Moeritheriums and Phimis evolving into even
160 different species up to now. Although they are very similar to contemporary
elephants, mammoths are not their direct ancestors, but they come from a separate
branch of the same family tree. Mammoths and elephants lived at the same time
for about four million years while their evolution ran separately. First mammoths
appeared in Africa and they later migrated to Europe, Siberia and North America.
In the lower Pleistocene, about 1.8 million years ago, dominant
species was M. Meridionalis. This species migrated to North America,
across Bering Strait. During the mid Pleistocene, a new American species of
mammoth evolved, so called Imperial mammoth, M. Imperator (although
the question is whether the name is justified and gender name legitimate). In
the upper Pleistocene M. Columbi appeared (known also as M. Jeffersoni).
Mammuthus Meridinnalis lived in Europe at the beginning
of Pleistocene and represents ancestral form from which two different species
of mammoth evolved: Mammuthus
Trogontherii (Steppe Mammoth) and Mammuthus Columbi.
The new species of mammoth, Steppe
mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii) lived in Euro-Asia during the
upper Pleistocene in the period from 700 000 to about 500 000 years ago. Later,
during Pleistocene, the
woolly mammoth (Mammuthus Primigenius) evolved as the result of
adapting to the new, colder climatic conditions.
Nobody is completely sure why the mammoths disappeared. There
are various assumptions where climatic changes are one of them. At the end of
Ice Age the ice was melting and the climate became much warmer. Those climatic
changes greatly influenced the survival of woolly mammoth. Man was another factor
that contributed to extermination of mammoths as he hunted them for food and
Mammoths are not the only representatives of Pleistocene proboscides.
During Pleistocene, so called old elephant, Paleoloxodon Antiquus,
with flat tusks, lived in Europe and Asia. It reached the size of steppe elephant,
but unlike it, lived in the warmer, forest regions. Paleoloxodon Antiquus
is considered to be a direct ancestor of nowadays Asian elephant (Elephas
maximus). They disappeared about 30 000 years ago.
Story about mammoths in the territory of Serbia
At the beginning of the twentieth century, with the development
of natural sciences, our country begins paying much more attention to paleontology
findings. This contributed the practice that fossil remains found during construction
and other works are collected and kept under more or less professional supervision.
Among the discovered remains, most frequent are the remains of Pleistocene proboscides
that are kept in numerous collections throughout the country.
One of the rather rich collections is one of the Natural History
Museum of Belgrade. Most of the material was found during sand and gravel excavation
near big Pannonian rivers (the Sava, Danube, Tisa, Drava, Tamis) or at the confluence
of tributaries to the Sava and Danube (Kolubara, Velika Morava).
Museum collection consists of numerous remains of both mammoth
species found in our territory, and they are Mammuthus trogontherii
and Mammuthus primigenius.
At the beginning of quarter, in Pleistocene, completely new, much
harsher living conditions prevailed, with significant temperature drop. Atmospheric
precipitation became more frequent and diversified, glaciers grew and slide
down the hills, far below the snow border.
Genuine ice ages, so called glacial periods, with low temperatures
and ample atmospheric precipitation, were replaced by interglacial periods when
the climate in Europe was sometimes warmer than nowadays.
During glacial periods there were two seasons: fresh summers and
long very cold winters. Especially significant is that the summers during the
ice period were far colder than today. The highest summer temperature was hardly
over 10 - 150C.
Climatic variations and changes of physical – geographic conditions
influenced flora and fauna during Pleistocene. These changes were extremely
prominent in the north latitudes, including Europe.
In the Balkan Peninsula, ice cover spread over the Alps and Dinara
mountains, from Triglav to Metohia, across Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and
Montenegro. In the East, ice covered all mountains of east Serbia and Bulgaria.
This spacious snow cover circled Pannonian Plane, Slavonia and part of North
Serbia on all sides. Spaces outside the ice cover were of enormous importance
for plants and animals living at that time. In these grassy lands, along the
basins and river valleys, certain number of species found asylum, and they lived
in our lands before the ice period. The easiest to adapt were the species adapted
to lower temperatures before the ice period. With the onrush of glaciers, plants
species gradually retreated and finally stopped along the river valleys and
basins where the glaciers could not reach. After glacial period, alongside with
retreat of snow and ice, but also with rise of temperature, species of plants
once more occupied the northern areas. Territories free of ice, along the rivers
and basins, were the major pathways for plants and animals to retreat towards
Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Asia Minor.
In the most part of Balkan Peninsula, flora was mostly presented
by various types of tundra. The exceptions are parts of Pannonian plane characteristic
for its steppe grasses. On the southern borders of Pannonian plane and along
the river valleys there was so called forest tundra with typical plant species
as "boreal rose", dwarfish or "polar willow" and birch.
During Neogene (23 million years ago), until the beginning of
Pleistocene (1.8 million years ago) Europe was inhabited by animal species adapted
to life in warm savannah climate, as mastodons, antelopes, gazelles, deer, rhinoceros,
horses, giraffes, etc. Some species of tertiary mammals lived as long as the
beginning of quarter, proboscides Anancus arvernensis and Zygolophodon
borsoni in Europe and Hipparion in East Asia. At the beginning
of ice age extreme warm forms left Europe or temporarily settled in the south.
Later, during Pleistocene, in the periods of interglaciation, they moved back
towards central and north Europe.
Mammals of warm and moderate climate include a great number of
proboscides. During Pleistocene, mastodone (Mammuth americanum) remained
in North America, while Palaeoloxodon antiquus stayed in Europe and Asia (forest
elephant with flat tusks) which had lived until the last interglacial, as well
as Mammuthus trogontherii (Steppe elephant) which entered into the
Among the best known forms of cold regions which adapted to harsh
climate in Europe and Asia is the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius),
the remains of which are found in the vast regions of Europe down to Mediterranean