King's Lynn Society of Arts and Sciences
Founded in 1913
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LECTURE REVIEWS 2016-2017
LECTURE REVIEWS 2015-2016
LECTURE REVIEWS 2014-2015
LECTURE REVIEWS 2013-2014
LECTURE REVIEWS 2012-2013
HISTORY OF THE SOCIETY
Review of "The West Runton Mammoth"
It is twenty seven years since the excitement of the discovery of freshly exposed parts of a mammoth skeleton in the Cromer Beds at the bottom of the cliffs at West Runton, after a storm had loosened material in 1990. Using media that included drone footage and video, Peter Sibbons of Poppyland Publishing, Cromer, gave the Society a comprehensive overview of how the remains were excavated over five years, as well as reconstructing the possible environment of the period and how this mammoth lived and died there.
This mammoth isn’t the better known woolly variety of later glaciations but a much larger species,
, which at 9-10 tonnes and 4m at the shoulder was considerably larger. The remains date from around 700,000 years ago. Pollen analysis of core samples from the site suggest that the temperature then was similar to how it is today. The environment the mammoth knew would have had a nearby river and similar flora and landscape features to that found at Upwell Fen today. The fauna would also be recognisable but with the addition of bears, rhino, hippo, spotted hyena, sabre-toothed cat and others. The Cromer Beds, which lie between Weybourne and Happisburgh where bones and shells have been found for nearly 200 years, were subsequently overlain by outwash from later glaciers which left them at the bottom of today’s cliffs.
Excavations in 1992 and 1995 showed the skeleton to be incomplete and scattered. Using methods of reconstructive archaeology and observations from current elephant and hyena behaviour, it is suggested that the remains had been trampled by other group members and scavenged by predators, as the bones were smashed in distinctive ways; teeth marks and coprolites indicate hyena activity. Also, the left knee showed pathology consistent with injury which may have weakened it.
The bones were all secured in plaster of Paris and removed from site. The remains have not been put on display yet, although the Castle Museum at Norwich is their likely destination. It is planned to launch the Deep History Coast Project this April and there will eventually be fourteen information points between Weybourne and Happisburgh. A DVD of the discovery and excavation of the mammoth based on about sixty hours of video taken at the time is to be produced in the future.