17 October 2009

What is this baby mammoth lying on?

The photo above shows scientists preparing to perform an autopsy on a mummified, 40,000-year-old baby mammoth found in Siberia.

I'm puzzled by the board he has been placed on. On the floor is a piece of graph paper obviously for charting positions of features. But the board is inscribed with numbers from 1-32 in a sort of radial pattern, with lines converging at the center. It doesn't really show radial dimensions from the center (which would be superfluous when the lower paper shows x,y position anyway). And the numbers aren't related to 360 degrees.

It would seem to have a practical purpose - unless it was just a conveniently-sized board used to transport the little carcass.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. I seem to have a brain freeze here...

Photo credit (RIA NOVOSTI/AFP/Getty Images)


  1. looks like polystyrene

  2. This might be vaguely relevant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traverse_board
    "a representation of the compass rose with its 32 compass points"

    Is the board being used to represent the orientation that the mammoth's body was found in??

  3. Alys, I'll bet you're right. We'll see if anyone can come up with any alternative explanations.

  4. Hey there, I think it might be used with a 3d Imaging Setup as registration points?

  5. I've now found this: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080411-baby-mammoth.html

    "A medical team prepares an exquisitely preserved baby woolly mammoth for a CT scan... produced 3-D images of Lyuba's innards, including her heart, liver, and other organs... Now we can see all the internal organs in their natural position inside the body"

    So, perhaps the blue board was used to help make the internal map - maybe a way of ensuring that partial images can be correctly oriented with respect to the body? And the orientation of the blue board on the surrounding graph paper probably marks how the body was found - the brown marks you can see on the floor might indicate north, east and west.

  6. Check out this picture


    I think that numbering the compass from 1 to 32 is a standard, and the fact that the mammoth is not square to the grid means they are trying to photograph it with respect to the original orientation.

  7. It looks like insulation to me. The critter is frozen afterall and I imagine they want to keep it that way

  8. I think both are right. Orientation to original find and it appears to be a common styrene blue board used for insulatuion in construction. they don't want conductive thawing where mammoth comes in contact with warm floor.


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