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Give back our 20,000-year-old woolly mammoth bones

By The Siberian Times reporter
18 May 2020

‘Full skeleton was illegally dug from ground in Siberia before being sent to UK and auctioned for £115,000’.

Palaeontologists allege the bones were illegally dug up in Tomsk region. Picture: Summers Place Auctions

Russia is examining taking legal action to repatriate a woolly mammoth skeletons sold in the United Kingdom at an auction two years ago.

Russia’s prosecutor general Igor Krasnov has taken the unusual case under his ‘personal control’, said his spokesman Andrey Ivanov.

Palaeontologists allege the bones were illegally dug up in Tomsk region.

Mammoth family on sale

Originally four lots of mammoth bones were offered as a mammoth family for £400,000. Picture: Summers Place Auctions

They believe the remains are likely to be 20,000 years old, not 10,000 as the auctioneers claimed.

The extinct beast’s ‘complete skeleton’ was bought by an anonymous buyer in an ‘evolution sale’ in November 2018 at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, Sussex alongside 22-million-year-old amber and a 200-year-old whale jaw.

The male mammoth died in a ‘natural disaster’ at a site Krasnoyarskaya Kurya close to modern-day Teguldet village on the River Chulym in the Tomsk region of Siberia. 

Rupert van der Werff

Rupert van der Werff, Summers Place Auctions' Natural History specialist, preparing mammoth family for the exhibition. Picture: Summers Place Auctions

Tomsk experts insist the mammoth bones have ‘scientific value’ in Russia and were dug from the ground without permission. 

Originally four lots of mammoth bones were offered as a mammoth family for £400,000 but in the event the other three were sold separately for lesser amounts. These three are also wanted back.

Auctioneers said the bones of the £115,000 mammoth belonged to a beast that perished ‘in some kind of natural disaster’ some 10,000 years ago. 

Excavations at Krasnoyarskaya Kurya


Excavations at Krasnoyarskaya Kurya


Excavations at Krasnoyarskaya Kurya

Tomsk scientists could start the works at the site only in 2005, when the most part of it was robbed. Pictures: TV2, Sergey Leshchinsky

‘Certainly, there was no evidence that the hand of man had had anything to do with the deaths.’

Lawyer Ekaterina Lizunova said 'the bones were extracted illegally' and she  submitted a formal demand to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office to begin moves to trace and return the relic. 

‘We are eager to bring this skeleton back to Russia,’  she said. 

Pavel Boiko showed the skeletons ready for sale in his social media. Video: Pavel Boiko

Since the case came to light in Russia, the company responsible for digging the mammoth from the ground - Trias Geo - has claimed it created a false ‘legend’ for the bones.

They were not a complete skeleton but constructed from bones obtained in  different Siberian sites, said its deputy head Pavel Boiko.

‘This was just a pile of bones in ten sacks,'  he claimed. 

Ekaterina Lizunova

Lawyer Ekaterina Lizunova: ‘We are eager to bring this skeleton back to Russia.’ Picture: Ekaterina Lizunova

The tusks came from a different source 2,800 miles away, he said, claiming the other three mammoths were sold for between £20,000 and £50,000.

‘This material is not of cultural, scientific nor museum value,’ he said. 

Leading mammoth expert Dr Sergey Leshchinsky alleged Boiko is ‘lying’.

Boiko had published a scientific paper in Russia relating to three of the four mammoth skeletons, he said. 

Mammoth sold


Mammoth sold

Auctioneers said the bones of the £115,000 mammoth belonged to a beast that perished ‘in some kind of natural disaster’ some 10,000 years ago. Pictures: Summers Place Auctions

Lizunova said that if Boiko’s account was true then it meant he 'has confessed to fraud' by creating a false account about the bones.

Her clients Tomsk State University believe an export licence was secured under false pretences because it was dug from the ground by Trias Geo which had permission for archeological but not palaeontological digging.

Sergey Leshchinsky

Leading mammoth expert Dr Sergey Leshchinsky is trying to bring the mammoths bones back to Russia. Picture: Sergey Leshchinsky

‘This is a sore subject for Russia,’ said Dr Leshchinsky.

‘Since the skeletons were stolen, it is the law enforcement agencies, not palaeontologists, who should now deal with this, and return them.’

Boiko said: ‘No-one caught us there, no-one saw us. 

‘The driver of excavator passed literally 5 or 10 bags of bones. And there was nothing more from there. How can they prove that these are their mammoths?’

Tomsk scientists at the excavations at Krasnoyarskaya Kurya in 2005. Video: TV2 Tomsk

Comments (1)

The should be returned in addition to reimbursing for all the expenses involved. It sounds like they did it for personal financial gain. And who was paid off to allow these UK "scientists" to pull off this scam?
SteveC, Odessa FL USA
24/05/2020 20:14
2
0
1

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