West Runton Mammoth


The discovery of the mammoth, or West Runton Elephant as it is also known, was made in 1990, when local residents Margaret and Harold Hems were walking along West Runton beach and they saw what looked like a large bone sticking out from the cliff face. After contacting Norfolk Museums Service, it was identified as a pelvic bone of a large Steppe mammoth. A year later a local fossil hunter called Rob Sinclair discovered more large bones and an exploratory excavation took place, followed by a serious three-month long excavation in 1995, carried out by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit.

The exploration unearthed 85% of a mammoth skeleton, the most complete skeleton of a Steppe mammoth ever found in the world. The majority of the West Runton Elephant lies in controlled storage at Gressenhall Museum, but there is a small display in the Norwich Castle and Cromer Museums.


The West Runton Mammoth was a Steppe Mammoth and an ancestor of the Woolly Mammoth but could perhaps be more accurately described as the Giant Forest Mammoth. The remains of the West Runton Mammoth were found in what is sometimes known as the West Runton Freshwater Bed, a 1.5m-thick layer of organic-rich mud within the Cromer Forest Bed Formation, which was deposited during the Cromerian Interglacial about 700,000 years ago.
Cromer Forest Bed
Standing at least four metres at its shoulder, the West Runton Mammoth would have weighed about ten tonnes, twice the weight of any African Elephant. It is known that the mammoth was a male who died at about the age of 42 in a fresh-water river bed. He would have been about 4m tall at the shoulder. The mammoth skeleton is the largest ever found in Britain. It is also the oldest to have been found in the UK (although some older individual teeth and bones exist).
West Runton Mammoth
The presence of a distorted distal right femur indicates that the West Runton Mammoth was severely disabled, and probably died as a result of not being able to get up after slipping in mud.
Some of the bones have tooth marks on them, and Spotted Hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) droppings were also preserved – indicating that scavenging took place. Some bones are crushed – the result of trampling during burial (probably by other mammoths).
West Runton Mammoth Bones at Cromer Museum