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Monday January 23, 2017

Giants of the Ice Age to appear at Ice Age festival!

Move over dinosaurs. You'll get your chance to shine in July. January at the Virginia Museum of Natural History is now reserved for the giants of the Ice Age. On Saturday, January 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville will host its inaugural Ice Age festival, introducing visitors to some of the mammoth-size (literally) animals that once inhabited the earth thousands of years ago. Admission is only $7 for adults ages 19-59, $5 for children and youth ages 3-18, and $5 for seniors 60+. As always, admission is FREE for museum members and children under 3.

Mammoths and mastodons have become icons of the Ice Age, but many people are unaware these creatures had an even larger relative called Stegodon (as seen above). This giant of the Ice Age grew to over 12 feet in height and over 26 feet in length, which didn’t even include its 10 foot long tusks. During the Ice Age festival, the Virginia Museum of Natural History will debut a life-size cast skeleton of this mega creature and other limited-time displays that depict the seemingly mythical creatures that roamed earth over 12,000 years ago. The displays will be on exhibit through February 28, 2017 in conjunction with the museum’s permanent exhibit, "Ice Age".

“For the past year, visitors to the museum have been able to see the ‘Ice Age’ exhibit, including an elaborate scene of Smilodon (saber-toothed cat) feeding on the remnants of a muskox,” said Dr. Alex Hastings, assistant curator of paleontology at the museum. “These new displays will give visitors an even greater appreciation of the size and magnitude of the animal life here on earth thousands of years ago.”

Woolly Rhinoceros? Was that ever really a thing?

Yep! In addition to Stegodon, the museum will display the cast skeleton of the often unheard of - and endearingly named - woolly rhinoceros. This extinct relative of the modern rhinoceros was common throughout Europe and northern Asia during the Pleistocene epoch. It grew to over 12 feet in length and weighed as much as 6,000 pounds.

“The woolly rhinoceros is a great example of the incredible variety of animal life on earth during the last Ice Age,” said Hastings. “Animals such as saber-toothed cats and mammoths are what people usually associate with the time period, but there are lesser known animals that are just as incredible that I think visitors will really enjoy.”

Throughout the festival, presenters from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, the Schiele Museum, Appalachian State University, the North Carolina Fossil Club, and the Virginia Master Naturalists will be on hand to provide activities and to show-off fossils of a variety of animals from the time period. Researchers and curators from the Virginia Museum of Natural History will also have special displays of Ice Age specimens from the museum's collection vaults. Additionally, a wide-range of games, crafts and special activities for children, such as balloon animals, will take place throughout the festival.

This year's headline presenter is Dr. Katy Smith, associate professor of geology at Georgia Southern University and one of the world's most renowned experts on North American mastodons and mammoths. "Give me a home where the mastodons roam: Exploring the lives and deaths of a uniquely North American beast" will focus on mastodons from three different regions of the United States and how studying the fossils of these animals can help scientists understand how they lived, while shedding light on why they went extinct.

"We are excited about what we have in store for visitors on January 28," said Ryan Barber, deputy director of VMNH. "Visitors are going to witness some incredible and unique displays while interacting with some of the most knowledgeable Ice Age experts in the country."


Tags: Festivals, Virginia Museum of Natural History