Woolly Mammoths—Flood or Ice Age?

There is plenty of evidence that the woolly mammoths in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon and almost all other surficial sites in the Northern Hemisphere died after the Flood.

Some creationists believe the mammoths died during the Flood,1 while others believe the evidence points to a post-Flood demise. Since there was much more variety within each type of animal before the Flood, mammoths very likely lived before the Flood. Therefore, fossils of these pre-Flood mammoths should exist in sedimentary rocks in some areas. However, there is plenty of evidence that the woolly mammoths in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon and almost all other surficial sites in the Northern Hemisphere died after the Flood.

The first argument against the mammoth-death-in-the-Flood hypothesis is that mammoths are buried in unconsolidated surficial sediments that indicate the action of post-Flood processes.

This is certainly true for the mammoths found outside of Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon. This evidence includes spear points associated with or embedded in the remains of mammoths at a dozen localities in North America.2 One mammoth at Naco, Arizona, had eight spear points, presumably from Clovis man, associated with the skeleton.3 Mammoths are commonly found buried in glacial till, river floodplain debris, river terraces, tar pits, caves, rock shelters, windblown loess, sinkholes, and peat bogs.4 There are an estimated 100 predominantly male mammoths in a sinkhole at Hot Springs, South Dakota, of which about half have been excavated.5 These are all geological features that likely could not form in the Flood but must have developed in the post-Flood time due to surficial geological processes.

The woolly mammoths in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon are also found in unconsolidated surficial sediments that are now permanently frozen. For instance, woolly mammoths in northwest Siberia are found in sediments above glacial till, a post-Flood surficial sediment.6

If the animals were killed by an ice or hail dump from space during the early Flood, as some creationists postulate, the animals should be found in the lower portion of the sedimentary rocks, a little above crystalline rocks. Furthermore, this surficial sediment lies upon hundreds to thousands of feet of consolidated sedimentary rocks that practically all advocates of the creation-Flood paradigm would attribute to the Flood. Most of Siberia is composed of sedimentary rocks of all ages within the uniformitarian geological time scale.7 “Mesozoic” sedimentary rocks underlie the Selerikan horse carcass, which was found in frozen loam between layers of peat.8 Peat is a result of post-Flood processes. The baby mammoth, Dima, was discovered within slope wash on the ten-meter terrace of the Kirgilyakh River, which was carved out of Jurassic shales and sandstones.9 The bedrock below the Cape Deceit fauna of Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, mostly consists of Paleozoic metalimestone and schist.10 There is a large concentration of mammoths within the surficial deposits of the New Siberian Islands. This surficial sediment lies upon thousands of feet of carbonates with marine fossils, coal layers, and other sedimentary rocks.11 Some of these sedimentary layers were once as deep as 50,000 feet (15,200 m) before deformation. These are not unlike sedimentary rocks found in the western United States. Practically all creationists would consider that such rocks were deposited during the Flood. The mammoths are found on top of these lithified sedimentary rocks within unconsolidated frozen sediments.

The second piece of evidence is that the woolly mammoths were part of a vast mammoth steppe, and they mingled with a wide variety of other mammals on this steppe during the Ice Age. This community of mammals ranged from western Europe through Russia, Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon.12 The mammoth steppe continued just south of the ice sheet in the United States. To isolate the frozen woolly mammoth remains in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon for a special catastrophic extinction scenario during the Flood, while ignoring the remainder of the Ice Age mammoth steppe, does not make sense.

A third indication is that the woolly mammoths are rarely found in glaciated areas, especially near the centers of former ice sheets. When found with glacial deposits, it is practically always at the periphery of the ice sheets. If the remains are discovered on top of the glacial till, mammoths simply migrated into areas formerly glaciated. If the remains are underneath or within till, a dead mammoth that formerly lived next to the ice sheet could have been covered by glacial debris during a readvance or surge of the periphery. Either one of these can explain the bones and tusks of mammoths in deep valleys of south Norway.13 Another seemingly anomalous occurrence of mammoths and other mammals is the discovery of their bones in central British Columbia about 60 miles (95 km) east of Smithers underneath glacial till.14 These mammals can be explained by the fact that the Ice Age in British Columbia would have started in the mountains and with time spread to the lowlands because of the onshore flow from the warm North Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, there is a gap in the Rocky Mountains where the Peace River flows from central British Columbia to the high plains. Mammoths and other animals could have easily migrated from the ice-free corridor west through the gap in the mountains and into central British Columbia where they were trapped and eventually covered by the expanding Cordilleran ice sheet.

A fourth indication of the post-Flood nature of Siberian mammoths is that mammoths and other Ice Age animals are the objects of post-Flood activity by man. Mammoths and other Ice Age animals are depicted in cave art from Europe to the Russian Plain and Siberia.15 These animals are especially common on cave walls of Europe. They are even found on cave walls in the southern Ural Mountains of Russia.16 These appear to be the same animals as found in the muck of Alaska.17 Ivory carvings are rather common in early man sites in southern Siberia.18 More than 70 mammoth-bone huts have been discovered on the central Russian Plain.19 Bones of 149 mammoths make up the bone hut at Mezhirich.20

Fifth, very few of the mammoth bones found in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon surficial deposits are permineralized, as would be expected if they were Flood fossils. Permineralized fossils have most of their organic matter replaced by inorganic chemicals. The frozen mammoth bones still contain 90 percent of their collagen and many have some bone marrow.21 The ivory tusks can still be carved like normal ivory from living elephants. That is why tusks are considered valuable and have fueled an extensive ivory trade for several centuries.

Advocates of a Flood demise for the Siberian mammoths have made several mistaken deductions on the data from the woolly mammoth and its environment. One such deduction is that there are 4,000 or more feet (more than 1,200 m) of muck in Siberia and Alaska with animal and vegetable remains scattered uniformly throughout it.22 This is based on a short 1969 article in the obscure journal Pursuit, a journal of the society for the investigation of the unexplained.23 The article discusses the discovery of frozen trees about 1,000 feet (300 m) deep by an oil company drilling on the North Slope of Alaska. The vegetation was tropical to subtropical.24 In Siberia, the Russians are said to have drilled in places 4,000 feet (1,200 m) into “muck,” which they considered a mysterious frozen earth. The anonymous author implied that this muck was widespread and deep. No references were provided. This muck has been identified and is not only shallow but also not all that mysterious.

Table A4.1. Evidences of post-Flood extinction of woolly mammoths in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon

  1. Buried in unconsolidated surficial sediments, not deep in the sedimentary rocks
  2. Part of a post-Flood surficial mammal steppe community across the Northern Hemisphere
  3. Rarely found in glaciated areas
  4. Objects of post-Flood activity of man
  5. Not permineralized as expected for most animals that died in the Flood

Vegetation from a much warmer climate is not unusual in strata in Asia and Canada.25 This frozen stratum may be from the Flood. After weighing the available evidence, I concluded that nearly all of this vegetation was deposited during the Flood, especially if it is dated by uniformitarians as Cretaceous and Tertiary. One of the most compelling pieces of evidence is multiple leaf and twig layers in early Tertiary deposits on Axel Heiberg Island. They are just as well preserved at the bottom of each bed as at the top.26 There is no evidence of bacterial or fungal decay of the leaf litter. If this was an in situ leaf layer, even in an anaerobic swamp, the bottom vegetation should show some evidence of decay. Besides, much of the vegetation is of the kind that would not normally grow in a swamp. It is likely the vegetation, some of which is frozen and not permineralized, was rafted into the area during the Flood.

In table A4.1, I summarize the five main evidences that the woolly mammoths in Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon died at the end of the Ice Age.

Frozen in Time

Author Michael Oard gives plausible explanations of the seemingly unsolvable mysteries about the Ice Age and the woolly mammoths.

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  1. Dillow, J.C., The waters above: Earth’s pre-Flood vapor canopy, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1981. Brown, W., In the beginning: Compelling evidence for creation and the flood, 6th edition, Center for Scientific Creation, Phoenix, AZ, 1995; 7th edition, 2001.
  2. Saunders, J.J., Blackwater Draws: Mammoths and mammoth hunters in the terminal Pleistocene; in: Proboscidean and paleoindian interactions, J.W. Fox, C.B. Smith, and K.T. Wilkins (editors), Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, p. 128, 1992.
  3. Ibid., p. 129.
  4. Oard, M.J., An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, p. 87–88, 1990. Stuart, A.J., Mammalian extinctions in the Late Pleistocene of northern Eurasia and North America, Review of Biology 66:517, 1991.
  5. Agenbroad, L.D., Pygmy (dwarf) mammoths of the Channel Islands of California, Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD, Inc., Hot Springs, SD, p. 27, 1998.
  6. Sher, A.V., Late-Quaternary extinction of large mammals in northern Eurasia: A new look at the Siberian contribution; in: Past and future rapid environmental changes: The spatial and evolutionary responses of terrestrial biota, B. Huntley, W. Cramer, A.V. Morgan, H.C. Prentice, and J.R.M. Allen (editors), Springer, New York, p. 323, 1997.
  7. Knystautas, A., The natural history of the USSR, McGraw-Hill, New York, p. 17, 1987.
  8. Ukraintseva, V.V., Vegetation cover and environment of the “Mammoth Epoch” in Siberia, Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota, Inc., Hot Springs, SD, p. 80–98, 1993.
  9. Dubrovo, N.A., R.Y. Giterman, R.N. Gorlova, and N.V. Rengarten, Upper Quaternary deposits and paleogeography of the region inhabited by the young Kirgilyakh mammoth, International Geology Review 24(6):621–634, 1982. Guthrie, R.D., Frozen fauna of the mammoth steppe — The story of Blue Babe, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, p. 7–24, 1990.
  10. Guthrie, R.D., and J.V. Matthews Jr., The Cape Deceit fauna/early Pleistocene mammalian assemblage from the Alaskan Arctic, Quaternary Research 1:474, 1971.
  11. Fujita, K., and D.B. Cook, The Arctic continental margin of eastern Siberia; in: The geology of North America: Volume L — The Arctic Ocean region, A. Grantz, L. Johnson, and J.F. Sweeney (editors), Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, p. 289–304, 1990.
  12. Guthrie, Frozen fauna, p. 7–24.
  13. Bergersen, O.R. and K. Garnes, Glacial deposits in the culmination zone of the Scandinavian ice sheet; in: Glacial deposits in north-west Europe, J. Ehlers (editor), A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, p. 29–40, 1983.
  14. Harington, C.R., H.W. Tipper, and R.J. Mott, Mammoth from Babine Lake, British Columbia, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 11:285–303, 1974.
  15. Stuart, A.J., Mammalian extinctions in the Late Pleistocene of northern Eurasia and North America, Review of Biology 66:489, 1991.
  16. Lister, A., and P. Bahn, Mammoths, Macmillan, New York, p. 103, 1994.
  17. Guthrie, R.D., Mammals of the mammoth steppe as paleoenvironmental indicators; in: Paleoecology of Beringia, D.M. Hopkins, J.V. Matthews Jr., C.E. Schweger, and S.B. Young (editors), Academic Press, New York, p. 308, 1982.
  18. Lister and Bahn, Mammoths, p. 113.
  19. Soffer, O., The upper paleolithic of the Central Russian Plain, Academic Press, New York, 1985. Ward, P.D., The call of distant mammoths — Why the Ice Age mammoths disappeared, Springer-Verlag, New York, p. 144, 1997.
  20. Soffer, O., The upper paleolithic of the Central Russian Plain, Academic Press, New York, p. 75, 1985.
  21. Guthrie, Frozen fauna, p. 245.
  22. Dillow, The waters above, pp. 351-353.
    Brown, W., In the beginning: Compelling evidence for creation and the flood, 6th edition, Center for Scientific Creation, Phoenix, AZ, p. 111, 1995.
  23. Anonymous, Much about muck, Pursuit 2(4):68–69, 1969.
  24. Williams, L., The energy non crisis, Worth Publishing Co., Wheatridge, CO, p. 54, 1980.
  25. Oard, M.J., Polar dinosaurs and the Genesis flood, Creation Research Society Quarterly 32:47–56, 1995. Oard, M.J., Mid and high latitude flora deposited in the Genesis flood — Part I: Uniformitarian paradox, Creation Research Society Quarterly 32:107–115, 1995.
  26. Oard, M.J., Mid and high latitude flora deposited in the Genesis flood — Part II: A creationist hypothesis, Creation Research Society Quarterly 32:138, 1995.


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