Ancient Headgear

If you needed further evidence that the world is a weird place, here’s something:  you can actually buy a hat made with authentic woolly mammoth hair for only $10,000.

World's only woolly mammoth hatThe hat has been put up for sale by Vladimir Ammosov, a man from Yakutsk.  His relative had gone to the “woolly mammoth graveyard” at a village in Yakutia and filled a plastic bag with woolly mammoth hair.  (In this part of Siberia, hunting for remains of the gigantic, shaggy, elephant-like creatures who thrived during the Ice Age is a popular local pastime — hey, what else are you going to do in Siberia? — and there is a lively trade in mammoth remains, especially tusks.)  The relative needed cash, and sold the bag of hair to Ammosov, who then had to decide what to do with it.

First, Ammosov got the expert at the local mammoth museum to confirm that the bag did in fact contain mammoth hair, then he decided to have the woolly mammoth hair crocheted into a head-hugging hat in the traditional Yakutian style.  Typically, the hats are made of horse hair, but the ancient mammoth hair served just as well.

It’s not exactly a flattering piece of headgear, and because mammoth hair was coarse — after all, it served as protection against the cold during an Ice Age — the hat is described as “prickly” to wear.  It was put up for sale in August, but I’ve found no follow-up stories to indicate whether it has actually been sold.  Could it be that there is no one out there willing to pay $10,000 for an ugly, uncomfortable hat woven from the hair of extinct, long-dead creatures?  Maybe the world isn’t quite as crazy as we think.

Not Our Fault

A recent study has concluded that the woolly mammoth died out due to declining pasture land, rather than being hunted to extinction by early humans as some scientists have speculated.

Interestingly, climate change apparently played a role — although no one seems to be attributing that climate change to humans (yet).  During the Ice Age, there were smaller concentrations of carbon dioxide, which discouraged tree growth.  As a result, there were vast pasture lands that were perfectly suited to large grass- and plant-munching beasts like the woolly mammoth.  As the Ice Age receded, climates warmed and carbon dioxide concentrations increased, which in turn led to the development of forests that encroached on the grasslands that were crucial to the survival of the mammoths.

The study is based on computer simulations, so there will still be room for debate.  Nevertheless, it is nice to think that our ancestors were not responsible for the extinction of these striking, colossal creatures that roamed the planet at the dawn of mankind.