Mammoth Tusk (бивней мамонта)

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A very rare pair of Mammoth tusks. These enormous Mammoth tusks were found in the Yakutia icefields and are one of the largest pairs of Mammoth tusks ever found over there. With a length of 350 cm and a total weight of almost 130 kilo, they are also the biggest Mammoth tusks ever sold in Europe.


Nothing captures the imagination more than talking about Mammoth. Mammoth are the most well-known specie from the past. A Mammoth is any species of the extinct elephantid genus Mammuthus. The various species of Mammoth were commonly equipped with long curved tusks and in the northern colder steppe, covering with long hair. They lived from the Pliocene epoch (from around 5 million years ago) into the Holocene at about 4,000 years ago, and various species existed in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. They were members of the family Elephantidae, which also contains the two genera of modern elephants and their ancestors. Like their modern relatives, Mammoths were quite large.

Similar in size to African elephants, Mammoths often had much longer tusks that twisted like a corkscrew.

The largest known species reached heights in the region of 4 m (13.1 ft) at the shoulder and weights of up to 8 tonnes, while exceptionally large males may have exceeded 12 tonnes. However, most species of Mammoth were only about as large as a modern Asian elephant (which are about 2.5 m to 3 m high at the shoulder, and rarely exceeding 5 tonnes). Both sexes bore tusks. The last woolly Mammoths on the territory of today’s Russian Federation died out after their main habitat – the vast northern steppe also known as Mammoth steppe – disappeared because of climate change.

A local Yakutian tusk hunter with an enormous Mammoth tusk.

Located in Eastern Siberia, Yakutia – a federal subject of the Russian Federation – has gigantic reserves of oil, gas and diamonds. But for the locals there is no way to make a living in Yakutia apart from hunting and fishing. But…, there is ‘kost’! ‘Kost’ means ‘bone’ in Russian language. The global warming is thawing out the permafrost and Mammoth tusks are floating up to the surface. The Yakutian locals are also digging into the permafrost to find them.

Mammoths—unlike elephants—are not covered by international agreements on endangered species. The reason being that they’re extinct and therefore not, strictly speaking, endangered. Harvesting and selling it for export has given the local people a chance to earn the so much-needed cash. Once the tusks are collected the tusk hunter sell their ivory tusk to traders who offer legal export of Mammoth ivory from Russia to anywhere in the world. But now, with the war Russia started in the Ukraine, there is now way for the Yakutian locals to sell their Mammoth Tusk on the international market and the export of these tusk stopped completely.

A Yakutian tusk hunter in the wide snowy steppe.

In the past the Yakutian locals sold one kilo of their best ‘kost’ for around 40,000 roubles (US$540). Quality can vary greatly, because every Mammoth tusk has a unique history of several millennia in the ground.  Mammoth ivory is classified as A, B, C, and D. Tusk classified as ‘D’ is rotten stuff. In Russia, it is now about 20-25,000 roubles (US$260-330) per kilo for ‘A’, and 10-15,000 roubles for ‘B’. But intact Mammoth tusks with no cracks are very valuable. According to CITES, top quality Mammoth tusk with no cracks reached a peak price in 2014 of US$1,900 per kilo in China. But most valuable are a pair of tusks from the same Mammoth. Such rare pairs of Mammoth tusk mostly only are sold through auctions.

The difference between the two ivories: “Whole tusks of Mammoth are readily distinguished from the tusks of modern elephants. A cross section of Mammoth tusk also has sharp growth patterns compared to that of recent ivory. At times, Mammoth ivory has inclusions of a particular mineral that fluoresces under violet light.

Elephant Ivory
Mammoth Ivory

Modern elephant ivory is beautifully white, but Mammoth is always a little yellowish.

Elephant Ivory
Mammoth Ivory

Left: Elephant ivory with Schreger lines intersecting at an average angle of 109°. Right: Mammoth ivory with Schreger lines intersecting at an average angle of 69°