Learn about towering Ice Age beasts as the Field Museum's popular traveling exhibit returns for an encore.
Since debuting at the Field Museum in 2010, "Mammoths and Mastodons" has been on the road, appearing in museums all over the world, from London to Alaska. Returning to Chicago, the exhibition is a well-organized, road-tested experience, introducing visitors to the gigantic creatures that roamed the Earth during the Ice Age.
Upon stepping into the exhibit, guests are greeted by a recreation of an excavation site, with mammoth tusks jutting from a rock formation. They're just one of the many things that you can reach out and touch throughout the display, which features a variety of models, bones and interactive elements (like a robotic elephant trunk) that make this one of the more tactile collections on view at the Field.
Of course, the real attractions are a scale model of a mammoth and a mastodon skeleton, which allow visitors to get a sense of the scale of these towering creatures. Along with exploring how these animals lived, adapted and died (often at the hands of humans), the exhibit also seeks to understand why mammoths and mastodons went extinct. It doesn’t settle on a single conclusion, but posits global warming, contagious diseases and over-hunting as possible culprits.
The exhibit’s final area presents a more pressing message, outlining the current plight of elephants, who are distant relatives of both mammoths and mastodons. While viewing an African elephant tusk that is more than eight feet tall, visitors will learn how the ivory trade has decimated elephant populations all over the world. “Mammoths and Mastodons” isn’t just a showcase of wondrous, long-extinct animals, it’s the Field Museum’s plea to save their equally amazing, modern-day cousins.