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Susi the Mammoth

In 1903, an almost completely preserved mammoth skeleton was found near Forst (Lausitz). Today, it is located in the Museum of Natural History in Berlin. In 2001, a replica of the skeleton was erected in the “Kreishaus” (district hall) in Forst (Lausitz), and it was given the name “Susi Stoßzahn” (Susi the Tooth). Susi is now the Geopark’s mascot.

In public perception, the mammoth is generally considered a symbol of the “Ice Age”. Spectacular finds in the Siberian permafrost have helped to shape this view. Numerous illustrations of mammoths living in ice and snow have found their way into school curricula. However, as indicated by the findings in Klinge, near Forst (Lausitz), mammoths also lived, to a certain extent, in temperate climates that were comparable to today’s Central European conditions.

The Discovery

At the end of the 19th century, geologists became aware of plant and bone fossils in clay pits outside the village of Klinge, near Forst (Lausitz). As early as 1894, some fragments of a young mammoth’s femur had been discovered in the Schmidt´sche clay pit. Finally, in 1903, the almost completely preserved skeleton of an adult mammoth was found in peat layers of the Grosche clay pit. Due to the shape of its pelvic bone and tusks, Klinge’s mammoth was determined to be an adult female. Since mammoth bulls are usually larger than mammoth cows, “Susi Stoßzahn” is a small representative of her species, as would be expected, with a shoulder height of about 2.75 m. Based on the state of preservation of her dentition, her age is estimated at about 45 to 50 years old.

The circumstances of the finding indicate that the animal lived during the Eemian interglacial (warm) period, approx. 120,000 years ago, and was using a lake as a drinking site, whereupon it sank into a bog. The bones survived, but they were stained dark brown by the humic acids present in the bog water. Accompanying flora and fauna fossils, pollen and leaf findings, in particular, attest to climate and vegetation that were similar to today’s conditions.

Discovery Sites

There are currently eight known woolly mammoth skeletons in Germany, and skeletal findings are also widespread in Poland. Discovery sites include Borna, near Leipzig, Steinheim an der Murr, Ahlen, near Münster, as well as Klinge, near Forst (Lausitz). The well-known Mammoth of Sangerhausen is a Mammutus trogontherii, and is therefore a steppe mammoth, zoologically speaking. One of the most important sites in Poland is the Kraków archaeological site, where the remains of about 70 specimens of woolly mammoth have been discovered. Very well-preserved skulls are also known to have been found in Bzianka and Dębica, near Rzeszów.