The Woolly Mammoth of West Runton in Norfolk
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Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

Millions of years ago, the wildlife used to be much more varied in East Anglia, with hyenas, bears, monkeys, wild boar, horses, bison, giant moose, rhinoceros and elephants. The West Runton Elephant was discovered in an area, which is known as the Cromer ridge, a belt of sand and gravel debris stretch's from Cromer to Holt. This ridge was made up by melting ice flows, at the end of the last Ice Age (quaternary period) which was about four million years ago.

At this time England was in the grip of an arctic climate with ice sheets, several kilometers thick, extending over most of Britain, as far south as North London.This means that the West Runton Woolly Mammoth had lain buried for between 600,000 and 700,000 years under thousands of tons of rock in a cliff face.

The first bones were unearthed in December 1990, though the actual retrieval was not launched until January 1992. First to be found were the ribs, jaw, backbone and part of a leg. In 1995 the major excavation work took place, to recover the rest of the skeleton.This was carried out by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit. Some of these bones can now be found in the Cromer Museum in Cromer.

The height of the elephant when alive was estimated at four meters weighing in at about 10 tons, which is nearly twice the weight of a modern African elephant. It was aged around forty years at its death.
As the dinosaurs had become extinct many millions of years earlier, the elephants were one of the larger beasts amongst land animals, at that time.

  Picture (c)
                    by John Ashley Photography