Living in the Ice Age: Mammoths and Mastodons at the Museum of Science

ongoing – Jan. 13

     Who don’t like baby animals? They’re irresistible, right? Especially when they’re kittens, panda bears and chimps. OK: How about a 40,000-year-old baby wooly mammoth?
ConMuseum of Science Mastodonsider Lyuba, one of the stars of “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age,” a traveling exhibit created at the Field Museum in Chicago which is on tour and at the Museum of Science through January 13. The actual remains of Lyuba were on display for nine months at the original Chicago exhibit, but they’re Russian-owned and back in the homeland now. On the road now is a life size replication.
      Lyuba – pronounced Lee-OO-bah – was found intact by a Siberian reindeer herder and two of his sons in 2007. It quickly shot to the top of the scientific charts, as the best preserved specimen of her kind. “Lyuba,” by the way, means “love” in Russian, and it was also the nickname of the herder’s wife.
      The Museum of Science exhibit, with more than 250 pieces, features an exact replica of Lyuba’s body, along with CT scans and other displays that pose theories about her and the world she inhabited – although Lyuba wasn’t part of that world for very long. She was healthy, but only a month old when she died, apparently trapped in a sudden mudslide. Her trunk filled with silt and she was covered with sediment. Her body was preserved in the permafrost, and the bacteria and acid in her system served to “pickle” her body.
     Walk in and the first thing you’ll see upon entering the exhibit is a fictional time-lapse photography style film shot all over North America. It starts with a present-day city and quickly spins back in time, all the way to 20,000 years ago. So, you move from the tall buildings of today to the empty, grassy plains where animals use to roam. You may spot Native Americans for a split second as we reel backwards. The film gives you a sense of the vastness of time and the scope of change, to say nothing of the brevity and impermanence of our existence.

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