The real deal for mammoth hair put under the microscope

Dr Chris Thomas inspects a strand of mammoth hair at the Norris Museum

Dr Chris Thomas inspects a strand of mammoth hair at the Norris Museum - Credit: Archant

The creature has not roamed the earth for about 45,000 years yet traces of this huge beast can be found in St Ives.

Mammoth Hair

Mammoth Hair - Credit: Archant

No one is sure how the hair from a woolly mammoth found its way to the town’s Norris Museum, but last week it was confirmed as the genuine article.

Dr Chris Thomas, a microscopy hobbyist and member of the Quekett Microscopical Club, confirmed the hair was indeed from the extinct creature after he put it under the microscope last Tuesday.

Dr Thomas, from Milton, visited the museum between attending two business networking groups in Huntingdonshire. Among the artefacts to attract his interest was the hair and he asked if he could go back to take magnified pictures of it.

The 57-year-old said: “Firstly, it does look very much like mammoth hair. It’s important as getting mammoth hair at the beginning of the 20th century was extremely difficult, as in the 18th and 19th century the Russians found the mammoths and harvested the bones and tusks – none were left intact.

“The interesting thing about the hair was that it wasn’t hollow like a polar bear. Mammoths would have relied on their thick hair to keep them warm.”

Museum curator Helen Giles said: “This was going to be a great opportunity for us to see what the mammoth hair looks like close up. We hope to show the images of the magnified strands of hair next to the real thing, for all to see.”

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However, a mystery still remains about how the hair ended up at the museum. It is believed to have been found in the early 21st century in Russia and donated to a St Petersburg museum, but somehow it ended up in the Norris Museum.