HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A creature that dwarfs a 12-foot-tall bear and roamed Earth for nearly 700,000 years makes for impressive company.
Throw in the mammoth’s slightly shorter, stockier cousin, whose family wandered the planet for nearly 2 million years – as vegetarians – and the title of the new exhibition, “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age,” makes perfect sense.
The 10,000 square-foot exhibition was developed by Chicago’s Field Museum and features the best examples of the species the museum could put together from collections around the world, said Hillary Hansen Sanders, who oversees the museum’s traveling exhibitions.
The show includes a replica of and the compelling story of the 42,000-year-old baby mammoth discovered largely intact in Siberia by reindeer herders in 2007. Visitors learn that a mammoth could eat 500 pounds of produce a day and see more than 100 fossils of mammoths and mastodons.
It opened Saturday at the U.S. Space Rocket Center and evoked a bit of awe from the crowds that passed through. The Woolly mammoth, Columbian Mammoth and Mastodons are all featured.
“I really love it,” said Keaton Miller, 10, of Jackson, Tenn. whose family was in town for a graduation. “It’s a science museum with a lot of space stuff, it’s really fun.”
Keaton, his brother Ryan and his dad Dave, joined forces to hoist the “hay bale” set out as one of the many interactive displays. The bale the Millers lifted was just one-15th of the weight what the mammoth would consume on a typical day.
The creatures, distant relatives of the modern elephant, wandered four continents including North America, coexisted with our bipedal ancestors and survived the Ice Age.
Among the exhibition features is a cave setting, illustrating how early man made cave drawings of mammoths dating back as far 32,000 years ago. It also features spear tips that may have been used to hunt giant creatures.
There are mighty tusks, a very large cat waiting to pounce and a model of homes used by early man – homes which employed mammoth tusks for a door, bones for walls and its fur for a roof.
Interactive features, which allow children to feel the weight of tusks and pick up objects with a trunk, urge children to consider the varied terrain the creatures roamed. And there are plenty of impressive heads and trunks to pet.
“We really enjoyed this, it’s very impressive,” said Richard Hale, from Knoxville, Tenn. Hale and his family, including son Jacob, 12, didn’t know about the traveling show until they made their way through the center Saturday.
Space Rocket Center officials hope word will spread quickly. They’ve embarked on an ad campaign spanning about a 300-mile radius and hope beach travelers and day-trippers, as well as locals, will take in the show.
The exhibition began in Chicago in 2010 and will travel around the world until 2016, Hansen Sanders said.
It will be at the Space Rocket Center until Sept. 2.