TOKYO – World fairs have typically focused on the wonders of the future, highlighting new technologies from glass and steel construction in the 19th century to satellites and computers today.
But next year’s fair will be different.
The Japanese organizers of the 2005 world’s fair have shipped a 18,000-year-old frozen woolly mammoth from Siberia to become the centerpiece attraction.
Naoki Suzuki, the Japanese scientist overseeing the Aichi Expo exhibit, said Friday the preserved head, tusks and front leg of the mammoth have arrived in Nagoya near the fair site, about 170 miles west of Tokyo.
Experts say the mammoth head, dug up earlier this year, is the most intact specimen of its kind recovered in 200 years. Scientists will conduct tests in a laboratory with a gallery so visitors can watch.
Preliminary tests suggest the bull mammoth lumbered across the prehistoric Siberian plains at more than 9 feet tall, weighing as much as 5 tons, Suzuki said. It was probably between 40 and 45 years old when it died.
His team hopes a battery of planned tests will help unravel the mystery of why mammoths became extinct about 10,000 years ago.
They will use advanced X-rays to peer inside the mammoth’s head and generate a 3-D map of its brain; study muscle tissue to determine how mammoths walked; look at rocks and pollen caught in its fur; cut into the tusks to determine what it ate and whether it was ill; and take DNA samples to answer questions about diseases and viruses.
Mammoths first appeared in Africa as long as 4 million years ago, and they roamed the plains of Siberia for nearly 2 million years before suddenly dying off.
Japanese researchers have for years been searching for mammoth remains in a separate project aimed at making a clone. So far, no DNA samples have been suitable for such an attempt.