The skeleton of a woolly mammoth was auctioned for more than half a million dollars. It is the largest of its kind that now belongs to a private collector, and what's astounding is that a majority of it — a whopping 80 percent — is original bone. The rest is resin used to complete the assembly.
The new owner paid $646,000 to claim ownership of the bones, which were previously on display inside a wine cellar in France. Pierre-Etienne Bindschelder, CEO of a waterproofing company based in Strasbourg, France, was the one who purchased it.
Why would a waterproofing company buy a mammoth skeleton? Well, one look at Soprema's logo — a mammoth, no less — instantly makes it clear that Bindschelder holds some kind of connection with the bones.
Moving forward, anyone who'll visit Soprema's Strasbourg headquarters will get a chance to gawk upon the humongous mammoth skeleton, its sheer and unbridled immensity in full display.
"We are going to display it in the lobby of our firm," the CEO said. "I think we have enough room."
The bones are unique because while there are a hundred mammoths belonging to that species, the size and quality of its tusks are noteworthy. Each of its two tusks weighs 80 kg. (176 lbs), not to mention that they're also 90 percent intact.
The Mammoth Skeleton
The skeleton, a male mammoth, was unearthed around 10 years ago in the Siberian Permafrost. Scientists say its teeth show signs of decay, which implies that it could have died from not being able to graze properly. Towering 10 feet tall, it is one of the largest ever found.
Climate Change Affecting Siberian Permafrost
It's a disconcerting fact that climate change is melting the Siberian Permafrost at a significantly rapid rate, but this is precisely the reason why ancient skeletons are being unearthed.
"So not only are we getting these incredible skeletons coming out, but also pretty much as they died as well," said David Gelsthorpe, curator for the Earth Science collections at Manchester Museum. "We're getting things like fur, the skin, the muscles, the organs — and even the last meal."
The first mammoth skeleton was also sold in an auction in France in 2006, but for a much lower price of $176,000. Shortly thereafter, the auction house sold a handful of other ancient and historical artifacts. The practice immediately drew scrutiny from scientists because they preferred to seize control of the market for fossils, which then drew ire from private collectors.