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From cave paintings to the latest Siberian finds, woolly mammoths have fascinated people across Europe, Asia, and North America for centuries. Remains of these enormous prehistoric animals were among the first fossils to be recognized as such, and they have played a crucial role in the birth and development of paleontology. In this lively, wide-ranging look at the fate of the mammoth, Claudine Cohen reanimates this large mammal with heavy curved tusks and shaggy brown hair through its history in science, myth, and popular culture.
Cohen uses the mammoth and the theories that naturalists constructed around it to illuminate wider issues in the history of science, showing how changing views about a single object reveal the development of scientific methods, practices, and ideas. How are fossils discovered, reconstructed, displayed, and interpreted? What stories are told about them, by whom, and how do these stories reflect the cultures and societies in which they are told?
To find out, Cohen takes us on a grand tour of the study of mammoth remains, from England, Germany, and France to Russia and America, and from the depths of Africa to the frozen frontiers of Alaska and Siberia, where intact mammoth corpses have been discovered in the permafrost. Along the way, she shows how paleontologists draw on myth and history, as well as on scientific evidence, to explore the deep history of the earth and of life. Cohen takes her history from the sixteenth century right up to the present, when researchers are using molecular biology to retrieve mammoth DNA, calling up dreams of cloning the mammoth and one day seeing herds of woolly mammoths roaming the frozen steppes.
|Publisher:||University of Chicago Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Claudine Cohen teaches the history of science at the Écoles des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. She is the author or coauthor of La Genèse de Telliamed: Théorie de la terre et histoire naturelle à l'aube des Lumières; Boucher de Perthes: Les Origines romantiques de la préhistoire; and L'Homme des origines: Savoirs et fictions en préhistoire. She is currently writing a new book about women in prehistory and preparing (with André Wakefield) the first English edition of Leibniz's Protogaea.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Preface to the American Edition
PART I: IMAGES
1 The Mammoth Appears
PART II: MYTHS
2 Saint Augustine and the Giants
3 Leibniz's Unicorn
4 Identifying an Elephant: The
Russian Mamont, the Elephant,
and the Flood
PART III: STORIES
5 The "Vast Mahmout" and the Birth
of the American Nation
6 The Mammoth and the "Revolutions
of the Surface of the Globe"
7 The Mammoth in Victorian Times
8 Of Mammoths and Men
9 The Mammoth in the Trees
10 From Africa to Alaska: The Travels
of the Mammoth
11 Cloning the Mammoth? Elephants,
Computers, and Molecules
12 Life and Death of Mammoths:
Scenarios for an Extinction
Conclusion: The Future of
What People are Saying About This
"Some groping attempts to tell the history of paleontology through a mammoth's eyes have been made before, but only as a lick and promise, and largely by amateur enthusiasts with (perhaps) adequate knowledge of fossils, but little understanding of the subtleties or larger contexts in the history of science. But, in this truly pathbreaking book, the mammoth has finally met its match in Claudine Cohen." --from the Foreword by Stephen Jay Gould