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Are Scientists on the Verge of Resurrecting the Woolly Mammoth?

January 22, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Every summer, groups of hunters head to the remote, uninhabited New Siberian islands in search of the elusive “white gold”—a perfectly formed tusk of a woolly mammoth—hidden in the thawing Arctic permafrost.

They are not only exploring the furthest reaches of the Arctic Ocean, but traveling back in time, carrying out a primordial quest for the tusks of the massive beasts that roamed the forbidding landscape in droves before going extinct 10,000 years ago.

Of course, there’s always the chance the hunters may stumble not just on a tusk or two, but on an entire set of mammoth remains, including fur, flesh and even oozing blood.

An illustration of a family of Woolly Mammoths.

That’s what happened in 2013, when a team from Yakutsk, Russia, uncovered the almost-complete carcass of a young female mammoth buried in the permafrost on the New Siberian Islands. Not only were three legs, a majority of the body, part of the head and the trunk still relatively well preserved, but when the researchers began efforts to dislodge the animal’s remains, they noticed dark, sticky blood oozing from the carcass.

Carbon dating revealed that Buttercup, as she was dubbed, lived some 40,000 years ago. From her remains, including a vial of blood drained from her carcass, scientists hoped to extract living mammoth cells that will yield intact DNA—the missing link in modern scientists’ long-running quest to bring this ancient behemoth back from the dead.

In the new documentary film Genesis 2.0, Swiss documentarian Christian Frei and his co-director, Siberian filmmaker Maxim Arbugaev, follow the intrepid mammoth tusk hunters in the New Siberian Islands, as well as various scientists in the United States, Russia, South Korea and China who are working to bring the mammoth back to life in one form or another.

Traditional Chinese carvers make elaborate sculptures out of mammoth ivory, and first-class mammoth tusks can net the hunters tens of thousands of dollars on the international market, especially since China banned the import and sale of elephant ivory in 2016. Russia exported 72 metric tons of mammoth ivory in 2017, with more than 80 percent of it going to China.

For the Siberian mammoth hunters, finding a top-notch tusk to sell is the goal, of course—a lot of what they find is in poor condition—but it’s also a mixed blessing. In local culture, which has long considered …read more

Source: HISTORY

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