Tuesday, June 03, 2014

How Do You Kill 86 Mammoths?

How do you kill 86 Mammoths?

A cliff could help but so too could dogs if they were used to drive Mammoths into spear-killing bottle necks made with brush and stone, much as native Americans once did with bison.  

Pat Shipman, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University, has been studying Mammoth mega-kill sites in Siberia, and she notes that the bones at these sites were laid down over hundreds of years, and that all date from about 44,000 years ago, at about the time that "modern" humans entered the area. 

Mammoth bones in Siberia at Berelekh
Archaeologists have found evidence that huts were made of mammoth bones, and cuts and burn marks on some of the bones could only have been made by people.  

Wolf/Dog skull buried with bone in mouth, Predmosti, Czech Republic
Wolf-dog skulls found among the mammoth bones at several megasites show healed fractures, an indication that these animals were likely cared for by human, and may have been used to drive Mammoths during the hunt.

Here in North America, the last of the Mammoths and the first of the native dogs also over-lapped. It is hard to imagine it, but Columbian Mammoth once roamed  the fields where I hunt, and if you know what you are looking for, you can still see their pentimento in the forest


Peter Apps said...

Rather than being evidence of human care, healed fractures in the wolf/dogs may have reflected a canine social system as closely knit as that of modern African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), which recover from severe injuries under the care and protection of the pack.

Dan said...

Knowing the response of horses to dogs, I do rather doubt that mammoths could be driven with dogs, not with dogs behind them anyway. Horses when confronted with dogs don't always run; quite often they simply go on the offensive and try to kill the offending dogs. This is why it isn't a good idea to let dogs and horses "play"; the dog may be playing but the horse is attempting murder.

No, I rather think that a trick like the old-time duck decoy ponds might have been at work. Those consisted of biggish ponds with long, narrow inlets coming off them. The inlets were lined with thick hurdles, set up so that ducks swimming into the inlet couldn't see what was behind them.

The trick here uses a dog, a small brown foxy-looking terrier who is traditionally called "Piper". The dog is sent out from behind a hurdle to run out in front of the dogs, jump a small jump and disappear behind a hurdle again. Round a few times then the performance moves a bit further down the inlet.

Ducks are entranced by this. They see a predator, but the predator is running away. They follow, to keep it in sight. Eventually, they're down the inlet and into a tunnel of nets, and they still cannot see where the dog has gone.

Then the man running the decoy pops out behind and scares them, but oh dear, they can only fly into a net tunnel and get caught!

I reckon a similar trick could be used on mammoths. First off, you teach a dog to run a circuit; out of hiding, round a tree, down a gully and round back out of sight.

Next, you do this when there are some mammoths nearby. They see a wolf, just one and he's running away. Oh look, he's back and still running away. Hmmm, let's see where he's going.

A few times round the circuit and the mammoths are heading down into the gully, so you repeat the "dog appears, and runs away from the mammoths" routine. When they're far enough in, then you have to stop them turning round and running off, and you have to keep them still for a bit.

Setting light to some greasy brushwood will do nicely; a few bundles of blazing brushwood behind them and they won't retreat, but will instead charge away from the fire. At this point, congratulations you've got mammoths in full charge, not looking where they're going.

Next trick is to stop them again. Caltrops on the ground will do this; simple sharpened pegs set into the ground. Examination of the foot bones of mammoth skeletons ought to show damage from sharp objects penetrating the feet.

Finally, you're ready to have a crack at actually killing a mammoth. You've cornered it and lamed it so it can't charge, oh and really, seriously annoyed it. Do try not to get too close.

PBurns said...

Various animals react very differently to wolves and dogs.

Sheep and cattle can be herded by a dog, horses will fight or stampede, ducks on the water may be lured by odd behavior, but they will flee (to water or air) on the land.

Mammoths are gone, of course, but we do have their near-relatives (elephants) in proximity of Wild Dogs (the species) and apparently they do two things -- they will stampede away from a pack or group of Wild Dogs despite their unequal size, AND they will face down a pack as a HERD to chase wild dogs away. Both behaviors can be see on Youtube.

jdlvtrn said...

years ago when I drove cross country with my malamute, we were near herds of cattle in large pastures: one near a roadside, and one at the University of S.C.Davis. I guess that both groups were previously exposed to dogs in the course of their management. On both occasions, however, the cattle raised their heads, scented my dog, their eyes widened and they abruptly thundered off. Did he smell different from stock dogs? I've also seen horses accustomed to hunting dogs react very differently to northern breeds. ??? Some button was pushed.