Sunday, January 29, 2012

Did Mammoths Survive the Great Extinction 12,000 Years Ago?

It seems that some of them did, although they were somewhat smaller than their older cousins. There is incontrovertible evidence that at least a few mammoths were still living long after the pyramids and Stonehenge had been built.
In 1993, mammoth skeletons were discovered on Wrangel Island, which is located about 100 miles north of Siberia. The bones were dated to between 3700 and 7000 years ago, long after mammoths were believed to have gone extinct. Trapped on their island home with limited food resources, the mammoths responded to their environment by growing smaller. They stood only about six feet tall at the shoulder.
Wrangel Island is not the only place where dwarf mammoths have been discovered. The other location is on Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands located off the southern California Coast near Santa Barbara. Like the miniature mammoths of Wrangel Island, the Santa Rosa mammoths were also about six feet tall. But the youngest pygmy elephants of Santa Rosa to be dated by radiocarbon techniques proved to be around 12,840 years old, meaning that they, at least, did not survive the Great Extinction.
There are also a few more tantalizing stories that, if true, could mean that at least a few mammoths survived until at least 100 years ago. According to one tale, a Russian hunter traveling in the great Siberian forest, followed a trail of immense tracks, piles of dung and broken trees. He caught up with the creatures after several days. He said they were a pair of massive elephants covered with hair and sporting massive tusks.
Stories also persist in the Near East and parts of China about hunters and herders spotting groups of strange animals that may be mammoths. In some of the stories, the beasts are described as being about the size of those found on the Wrangel and Santa Rosa islands.
Both Eskimos and North American tribes have legends that describe mammoths, although these stories may have been handed down for thousands of years. But in at least a few cases, the sightings seem to have taken place within living memory.
Are there still a few mammoths surviving in remote corners of the world? Species are constantly being rediscovered that were once thought to have gone extinct. Perhaps the idea that mammoths may have survived is not really as far-fetched as it seems.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cement Pillars on an Uninhabited Island?

There is a little island called the Isle of Pines about 40 miles south of New Caledonia. And on this little island are about 400 mounds of sand and gravel, each about 8 or 9 feet high and roughly 300 feet in diameter. A curious researcher named L. Chevalier of the Museum of New Caledonia, dug into four of these mounds in the early 1960s. Inside three of the mounds, Chevalier found a single upright pillar, and the fourth contained two pillars.

The pillars are about 40 to 100 inches high and range from 40 to 75 inches in diameter. The mortar, a lime-mortar compound, contained bits of shell which could be dated using radiocarbon techniques. Surprisingly, they were found to date between about 5120 BC and 10,950 BC.

There are several odd things about these cylinders. There are no other signs of human presence at the sites. Excavators found no bones, charcoal, or any other remains. Also, the use of mortar anywhere else in the world only dates back to a few hundred years BC.

Similar mounds have been found in the Paita district of southern New Caledonia. But New Caledonia is believed to have been settled by people arriving from Indonesia only around 4,000 years ago,long after the pillars were created. So who stopped by and left all the concrete cylinders?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Death Valley's Racing Rocks

California's Death Valley is famous for its enduring legends and stories of mysterious events. One of the most remarkable of those events takes place at Racetrack Playa.

Racetrack Playa is a very flat area with no vegetation or water and very few stones. But since 1948 there have been occasional reports of rocks that have moved, seemingly all by themselves, across the sun-baked surface of the playa. Stones weighing as much as 80 pounds have been found at the ends of clearly defined tracks which can range in length up to 200 feet.

Although the stones and their trails have been photographed after the fact, no one has reported seeing them actually move. Some of the theories that have been put forth to account for these restless rocks include ghostly activities, earthquakes, and even strong winds pushing the stones across the level ground. But in the end, no one knows for sure what is actually happening in this intriguing corner of Death Valley.