Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Fossil giant wows shoppers

Visitors to Marina Mall get to meet a 15,000-year-old woolly mammoth.
A 15,000-year-old woolly mammoth skeleton was unveiled at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Delores Johnson / The National
A 15,000-year-old woolly mammoth skeleton was unveiled at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // A woolly mammoth believed to be 15,000 years old was unveiled at Marina Mall on Tuesday.

The Siberian fossil of palaeolithic times stands about four metres tall and the bones alone weigh one tonne.

Nikolaos Kontos, head of marketing at Marina Mall, said he hoped the attraction would appeal to the local community and offer something different at the emirate’s original mall.

“It’s about offering a unique experience when people come to the mall. Instead of just shopping, they can witness one of the largest genuine fossils,” he said. “We have brought German specialists here to make sure it’s a genuine fossil. It’s one of the biggest males to be found in the world, one of about only 10.”

Alive, the animal would have been a whopping 10 to 12 tonnes and stand six or seven metres tall with its thick coat of hair. The wild beast, prey of the caveman, would have eaten between 60 and 300 kilograms of food a day and drunk 60 to 160 litres of water.

The event will promote palaentology to the public, said Dr Mark Beech, an archaeologist who is head of the coastal heritage and palaeontology section of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority Historic Environment Department.

“We don’t have a natural history museum in Abu Dhabi where fossils from this country can be put on display, so while it’s nice to have this, I would still like to see an institute where we can educate and promote the many finds we have made here in the UAE,” he said. “We have some very impressive fossils in our store that have been collected during the course of more than 20 years’ work on the 6 to 8-million-year-old Late Miocene fossil sites in Al Gharbia.”

Freelance archaeologist Will Higgs, from the UK, also attended the unveiling, and has been visiting the UAE since 2002. His first excavation find was elephant tusks that were 2.5 metres long.

“It’s a lot of fun to have something like this in a mall and it’s something I thoroughly approve of, but Abu Dhabi still doesn’t have a permanent institution of natural history, which is incredibly important for the growth of its culture and history. There are some very interesting finds here,” he said.

He said while the exhibit was “a lot of fun” and something that would engage children and adults, it was much easier to engage the community with artefacts found locally, such as the fossils in the Western Region.

“On a small scale, we’ve seen this with small exhibitions here. People are interested. But it must also be done alongside education,” he said.

“That’s why there needs to be an institute, a museum where specimens can be stored and studied and accessed by the general public.”

The permanent exhibit, situated at the rear side of the mall, is open to the public and free to visit during mall opening hours.

It was unveiled to an exclusive group of visitors, including the man behind the project itself, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa, adviser to the President and chairman of the National Investment Corporation. The event was hosted by Bahraini presenter Nada Shaibani.

mswan@thenational.ae

Updated: December 8, 2015 04:00 AM

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