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Author:Tatiana Argounova-Low (University of Aberdeen)
Paper short abstract:
Mammoths have been extinct for thousands of years, yet their remains are found in large quantities in Siberia. This paper offers a perspective on mammoth extinction, scientific engagement with the animal remains and it highlights the connection between extinction and life, loss and continuation.
Paper long abstract:
Mammoths, one of the most enigmatic animals known to humanity, have been extinct for thousands of years. In Sakha (Yakutia), north eastern part of Russia, mammoth remains are well preserved due to permafrost and can be found in large quantities. This paper offers a perspective on mammoth extinction, engagement with the animal remains and it highlights the connection between extinction and life, loss and continuation.Currently, teams of international scientists are engaging with excavated remains of mammoths to extract good quality cells. This biological material of these extinct species is used for the research conducted by international teams of evolutionary biologists and geneticists in their attempt to de-extinct these animals. While there is no limit to technological and scientific advancements showcased in these experiments, there are moral and ethical limits that make such scientific engagement controversial.On the other hand, despite being extinct physically, mammoths, as a symbol, have been used for quite some time. Such symbolic resurrection includes cultural, economic and ideological exploits of this emblematic animal. This case study demonstrates a range of engagements with the mammoth tusks, from artistic creative works, political profits to environmental devastation ensued by digging and other negative effects from such “mammoth hunting” in northern communities. This paper considers these aspects to evaluate their role in the process of mammoth (de)extinction, as well as to query the very notion of extinction.
For an anthropology of the limit II