Monday, September 17, 2007

"Have explorers had feasts of woolly mammoth?" Here's an excerpt from the answer:
Anyone picturing a whole delicious world of mammoths up there in nature's freezer case needs to face some basic facts. First, undamaged carcasses don't turn up too often. Only a few near-intact mammoths have been discovered in the last 30 years or so -- the extremely well-preserved calf found in Siberia this May being the latest -- and a 1961 article in Science magazine reports that of 39 carcasses found to that point just 4 were reasonably complete. True, more remains will emerge as global warming thaws out the permafrost, but this brings us to our second problem: the meat that does survive is nearly always revolting. The Science article says that "all the frozen specimens were rotten," and though some firsthand accounts of long-ago mammoth finds have claimed the flesh looked OK, typically it smelled horrifying and only wild scavengers and the locals' dogs would eat it.

Even when mammoth meat isn't actually putrid, it still doesn't make great eating. According to Richard Stone's book Mammoth (2001), Russian zoologist Alexei Tikhonov (who figures in articles about the recent Siberian find) once tried a bite and said "it was awful. It tasted like meat left too long in a freezer."