Freezing

The best-preserved fossils are those of organisms that have been frozen quickly. Only a few species of not-very-old fossils have been so preserved to this day, notably some of the large Pleistocene mammoths that were mysteriously frozen while wandering about Siberia and Alaska about ten thousand years ago. These mammoths, still melting out of the permafrost,

Frozen Mammoth
Frozen mammoth from Alaska in refrigerator case. (Photo American Museum of Natural History, New York)

were frozen so rapidly that the last mouthful a pachyderm was munching before its unfortunate accident remains unchewed in its mouth. Such fossils are difficult to collect and even more difficult to display. The American Museum of Natural History in New York has the front part of a small mammoth from Alaska on display in a glass-walled freezer. Similar frozen fossils are eagerly collected by the Eskimos, who chop them up and feed them to their dogs, a strange use indeed for fossils.

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