That’s some baby

42,000-year old ‘Lyuba’ mammoth comes to Liberty Science Center

Finding the remains of a prehistoric animal intact is a rare feat.
But that’s what happened in 2007, when Russian herders found a 42,000 year-old baby mammoth trapped in ice in the Siberian tundra.
That mammoth, Lyuba (Russian for “love”), is now on display thousands of miles from home, at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, until Nov. 10. It is the centerpiece of the center’s new “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age” exhibit, which opened officially to the public on Oct. 16 and runs until January 9.
Those attending will see an extensive collection of more than 100 rare fossils, touchable casts, and immersive media. The purpose of the exhibit is to show how those massive forerunners to the modern-day elephant coexisted with humans and how human predation, climate change and other factors may have played in the eventual extinction of these giants.


“It’s just amazing to see something that has not been seen by humans in 42,000 years.” – Deborah Gagnon

The science center is the second and last venue in the U.S. where the preserved mammoth is on display, after the Field Museum in Chicago. When it finishes its exhibition, it goes to other destinations around the world until it ends up back at its home base, the Ivan Shemanovsky Yamal-Nenets Regional Museum and Exhibition Center in Salekhard, Russia.
Excited to see the exhibit is Dr. Emlyn Koster, the president and CEO of Liberty Science Center. Koster said the center started discussions about bringing the exhibit from Chicago last year, due to its unique nature.
“It’s a great fit for the science center, which is about illuminating the science that matters,” Koster said. “We’re now debating climate change; we’re concerned about animals going extinct, we know that landscape is changing because of climate change. Just widen the time lens.”

A display not to be forgotten

What guests at a VIP reception on Oct. 14 got to see is what thousands of people since then have been able to view in the 7,500-square-foot exhibition space.
That includes rare and evocative objects and stunning images, such as spear points, cave paintings, and other prehistoric art showing vividly how humans interacted with mammoths and mastodons.
But Lyuba is literally the elephant in the room that one cannot help but notice. Admirers will be able to learn how the female mammoth was preserved for three reasons: she was buried quickly after death in fine sediment that sealed off oxygen, soaked in acids formed by bacteria that came into her body after her death, and stayed frozen in Siberia’s permafrost for tens of thousands of years.
Because of its well-preserved state, Lyuba’s still-intact DNA has enabled scientists to conduct studies of how mammoths lived during that time, such as their eating habits and their movements.
Deborah Gagnon, a Weehawken resident who got to see Lyuba for the first time at the Oct. 14 VIP event was so impressed with what was on view that she planned to bring her children and as well as their classmates for a future field trip.
“It’s just amazing to see something that has not been seen by humans in 42,000 years,” Gagnon said.
Former Hoboken resident Carrie Bachman, who came with her husband and two children, was impressed by the fact that parts of the exhibit were interactive. Her 8-year-old son, Alec, said Lyuba was “awesome” and “pretty cool.”
The public will have to check with staff about flash photography of certain sections of the exhibit, especially Lyuba.
The expense of transporting and mounting the exhibition at Liberty Science Center is why there’s an extra fee of $5.25 for adults and $3.50 for children ages 2 -12/ seniors 62+. Infants under two years old are free. School and group rates are also available. Call (201) 253-1310 for more information or visit
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at


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