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The Ice Age Gallery Large Print Guide

The Ice Age Gallery

This guide covers the first floor Ice Age Gallery
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Panel 1
Ice Age Peterborough

For the last two and half million years, the Earth has been experiencing an Ice Age. During cold periods called glacials, ice sheets and glaciers have spread from the poles, often covering entire continents.

In between these cold periods were interglacials. During this time the ice retreated, as temperatures rose.

The most recent glacial, called the Devensian, lasted from 12,000 –115,000 years ago. In this period, the ice sheet crept to within 80 kilometres of Peterborough and animals like mammoths, woolly rhinos, bison and reindeer thrived here in the cold.

The interglacial before the Devensian, called the Ipswichian, lasted from about 115,000 –130,000 years ago. Then, the climate was much warmer and elephants and hippos lived here all year round.

You can find evidence for Ice Age life in this gallery –including the remains of mammoths from the glacial Devensian period, and warm-weather animals that lived here in the earlier interglacial Ipswichian period.

We are living in another interglacial now, but no one knows how long it will last.

Panel 2
Mighty Mammoths

30,000 years ago arctic ice covered Britain as far south as Lincolnshire.

Peterborough’s ground was frozen and snowy except during a brief summer when the soil thawed, and mammoths and other grazing animals arrived from the south.

Every winter the snow fell again and the migrating herds retreated.

Bones, tusks and teeth of long-extinct mammoths have been found in local gravel pits. Like elephants, mammoths lived in herds led by a matriarch. They each ate over 200 kilogrammes of grass, buds and flowers each day, and could live to 80 years old.

Mammoths had a ten-centimetre-thick layer of fat under their skin, and a winter coat that could grow up to a metre long.

Panel 3
Interglacial Peterborough

120,000 years ago, open forest with grassland and marshes covered Britain and Europe.

Deciduous trees grew much further north than they do today, even inside the Arctic circle.

This area was warm enough for elephants and hippos to thrive all year, grazing in the forests and wallow Summer temperatures were only slightly higher than today, but the winters were much milder 120,000 years ago. The local climate was perfect for big game animals that today live further south, along with cattle and red deer that still live in England now.

The forests were full of familiar woodland species, alongside more exotic trees like water chestnuts.

Panel 4
Glacial Peterborough

30,000 years ago, the future site of Peterborough was a tundra, a wilderness with freezing winters and brief summers.

As cold as Siberia today, the landscape was dotted with pools and gravelly rivers.

Today, the gravel is revealing evidence of Ice Age animals and plants that lived and died here.

In winter the ground was frozen and almost nothing could live here, but in summer flowers bloomed, insects hatched, birds and small mammals reappeared, and herds of migrating animals returned to feed.

The large animals included mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, bison, cave bears and reindeer.

Their bones turn up today in the Ice Age river gravel, deposited here by rivers and streams 30,000 years ago.

Panel 5
After the ice

10,000 years ago, the ice disappeared.

At the end of the last glacial period, the ice sheet shrank back to the Arctic we know today.

We’re now living in a warm period in between glacials –but nobody knows how long it will last.

The first people to live in the Peterborough area arrived about 10,000 years ago. They lived by foraging plants and hunting wild animals –reducing some species to extinction. Later, they domesticated animals and began to farm.

In a climate similar to today, the forests spread and familiar native plants and animals thrived. New species also migrated into Britain, as evidence from the landscape shows.

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