Mammoths and Mastadons: Titans of the Ice Age
There’s a time machine on the third floor of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and it’s target is the Ice Age. This wild and woolly era of earth’s history hosted some of the most fascinating animals to roam the earth, including our own Colorado backyard. This rich fossil record has been collected into an astonishing exhibit called Mammoths and Mastadons: Titan of the Ice Age.
From now until May 27th, 2013, families can explore the lives—and deaths—of these majestic creatures through hands-on activities and numerous interactive stations. Kids can joust with tusks, touch molars the size of bricks, be immersed in a painted cave, play with pachyderm poo, pose with intimidating life-sized models of ice age animals, and coo over baby mammoth Lyuba. Fun animation stations share facts in short, accessible films the whole family can enjoy.
The moment you walk into the exhibit, you are whisked to a world where giants ruled. Massive tusks, the size of twisted tree trunks, greet visitors. The exhibit wastes no time plunging all the senses into a time when everything was large but still fragile. It’s humbling to know these massive creatures dominated, but eventually went extinct. How can something so powerful be so vulnerable? The key lies in the fossil record.
One of the highlights of the exhibit is a replica of a 42,000 year old baby mammoth fossil named Lyuba. She was found in Russia so well preserved, the contents of her stomach were still intact. Scientists were able to learn about the lives of mammoths through this fortunate discovery. Older kids can appreciate how researchers pieced together her story and are inspired by the reality there are still fossils to find. And some of those fossils can be found in our own state!
In 2010, Snowmass, Colorado made international news due to the discovery of an ice age fossil site. It’s been dubbed the Snowmastadon Project and for the first time, museum visitors can see some of the fossils and learn about the discovery. Kids get really excited when their home state is famous for something extremely cool. It’s important to tie in our state’s claim to fame with the deep and rich worldwide history of ice age animals, though. Throughout the rest of the exhibit, visitors are treated to learning how our ancestors interacted with the behemouths. There’s enormous evidence that humans and mastadons traveled the same lands, drank from the same rivers, and had a relationship that was important enough to depict in some of the first paintings ever created. My kids adored the interactive cave. It was probably the busiest spot in the entire exhibit. Cutely animated video plays on the walls, leading to an interactive session with high-tech cave drawing flashlights.
Finally, the exhibit pays tribute to the familiar relatives of mammoths and mastadons—elephants! Did you know elephants are not descendants of mammoths or mastadons? Rather, they are close cousins and the current crop of proboscideans. Many of the myths and legends we think we know about elephants simple aren’t true. If you love elephants, you’ll love the Mammoths and Mastadons exhibit. The big-trunked are treated with love and awe. I learned a lot. My kids learned a lot. We all want to go back! The exhibit finishes with a live demonstration of a museum worker preserving an actual fossil, reinforcing the fact that important research is still being done.
To enhance your visit to Mammoths and Mastadons: Titans of the Ice Age, the museum is showing the IMAX film Titans of the Ice Age 3D. For more information about museum hours, admission prices, and to plan your visit, check out the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Admission is $7 for adult members and $3 for junior/student members ages 3-18. Non-member admission is $21 for adults, $12 for junior/students ages 3-18 (which includes admission to the rest of the museum.)
(My family was given tickets to visit and explore the Mammoths and Mastadons: Titans of the Ice Age exhibit for the purpose of review. The opinions are solely ours.)