Beasts of Ice Age Wales Come To Chester's Grosvenor Museum

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 26 July 2007
photo of several animals including an elk, lion and wolf

Courtesy Grosvenor Museum

The Grosvenor Museum in Chester is taking visitors back to a time when the weather veered between deep freeze temperatures and rather warm. No, it’s not an exhibition about the British summer in 2007, but a look at life in the Ice Age, in Wales.

Down to the Bone: Beasts in Ice Age Wales will run until October 7 2007 at the Museum, and dispels the idea that the Ice Age was one long period of ice sheets and blizzards.

The Ice Age was actually a series of cold and warm spells during which ice sheets grew and shrank as the European climate varied between glacial conditions going down to –20C and warm periods when the temperature could reach 23C. The big freeze lasted about 1.8 million years.

“A large number of animals lived in North Wales during the Ice Age that do not live there now,” said Kate Riddington, Keeper of National History at the Museum.

“The Museum’s collection, along with specimens on loan from other museums and a model woolly rhino made by the 9th Chester Brownies, will help to recreate this time in people’s imagination.”

photo of a horned bull type animal

Courtesy Grosvenor Museum

Between about 1.81 million years ago and 11,550 years ago, North Wales was home to a host of animals that are now either extinct, or abandoned these shores long ago. Brown bears, hyenas, wolves, hippos, woolly mammoth and lions all roamed the land, and when they died they left their bones and teeth trapped in glacial sand and gravel.

Victorian naturalists had a lot of fun excavating these from caves during the 19th century, and the Grosvenor Museum is lucky enough to have 540 individual specimens.

The beasts of the Ice Age may not have been seen in Wales for over a million years, but their bones have not been seen in Chester for 20 years, having been on loan to the National Museums of Wales in Cardiff.

Other objects are on loan from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool and the Lapworth Museum of Geology. Castle Clement and Tarmac Ltd have also donated specimens for the exhibition.

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