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Old 11-21-2017, 08:55 PM
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How to bury an elephant?


I'm doing a story about an elephant that died in Lenox, MA. in 1851. He died in a barn after suffering injuries from a fall off a bridge. The elephant weighed 6 tons. How do you think he was buried? My guess is they buried him where he died because moving the body would have been difficult with horses. Does anyone one have any thoughts? Thanks!
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Old 11-21-2017, 08:59 PM
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I'd say it was burned.

Lots and lots of branches and small trees piled on the body. Perhaps pitch or tar too if it's available to make the fire hotter. Make a big bonfire.

I've seen news reports of decayed whales exploding.

You can't ignore a dead elephant for very long.

Last edited by aceplace57; 11-21-2017 at 09:03 PM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:03 PM
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I'd say they let knackers cut it into more manageable pieces, render the fat and so on before putting the rest on a pyre. Burial would be impractical due to sheer volume.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:03 PM
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Thanks.
I should mention that the body was buried for a museum with plans to harvest the bones in 6 years. When the returned the carcass was still in decay, so he was reburied. That was the last anyone knew of his (Columbus) grave location. I have located where the barn would have been in 1851. Would Columbus be there too?

Last edited by leo153; 11-21-2017 at 09:07 PM. Reason: addition
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:10 PM
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Maybe a team of professional grave diggers then? They'd need every gravedigger in that area to help dig.

Even today, it would take a backhoe a few hours to bury an elephant.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:23 PM
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According to many accounts from the time, he was left to rot in the shed where he died for quite some time before being buried and exhumed and reburied years later.

No clear account of exactly how he was buried is found with a basic web search, but as Gukumatz and an old African proverb both say: "There's only one way to eat an elephant; one bite at a time."

Especially considering his decomposed state by the time he was buried it's very likely that he was carried out in small pieces.

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The plan was that the bones of this colossus would be donated to Williams College Natural History Department where they could be reassembled and exhibited. Attempts to disinter Columbus were repelled by the stench and the slow decomposition of his hide.

As late as 1859 “those approaching the mound for the purpose of exhuming the bones…have beat a hasty retreat.”

Eleven years after Columbus was buried, in 1862, his remains were dug up and presented to Williams College.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:28 PM
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The bones never saw the light of day. Williams tried twice to find Columbus and both times they could not locate the grave.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:31 PM
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Give Mike Rowe a call. He's always looking for work.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:59 PM
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Am I the only one that mentally added "Need answer quick!" to the end of the thread title?
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Old 11-21-2017, 10:21 PM
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If they couldn't find his grave, I draw one of three conclusions: someone else had already taken the carcass and bones for another use, that he wasn't buried in the shed, or that the college didn't want him. Another use could be something like selling the bones to a collector. If he wasn't buried in the shed, he would have had to be moved, likely not far. There may be local stories about where the body is. If the college didn't want him, then he should still be on the farm where he died.
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Old 11-22-2017, 12:47 AM
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possibly relevant info:
Large horses were routinely left to rot on city streets in New York during the 1800's.
So a rotting elephant wouldn't have seemed as horrible as our modern sensibilities think.

Going from memory:
About 30 years ago, I had just moved to a new apt, and subscribed to the NewYork Times.I remember being surprised to read a fascinating article about archeology in the city.They were repaving a street, and under the asphalt found the old cobblestones, and under that something else, etc, etc. Which led the reporter to look into the history of who was responsible for taking care of the streets, etc. And he quoted old documents (maybe letters to the editor?) suggesting a new and apparently radical idea: that the city government should take on the responsiblity of removing dead animals from the streets. It gave the example of a large horse, which collapsed and died in the street, but was too heavy to move, so it just laid there all summer, rotting, drawing flies and of course, stinking.

It must have been a fairly common event, too....There were a lot of horses back then. Many of them were not the fast,sleek horses we see today at the Kentucky derby. They were huge beasts used for pulling very heavy wagons, weighing thousands of pounds.
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Old 11-22-2017, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by chappachula View Post
It must have been a fairly common event, too....There were a lot of horses back then.
The City of New York removed 15,000 dead horses from the street in just 1880.
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Old 11-22-2017, 06:36 AM
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Childhood joke:

A guy is at the circus and poking around off of the midway. He comes upon a man sitting on a hay bale, bawling his eyes out.

"What's wrong?" the guy asks.

"Our biggest elephant just died!"

"You must have loved him very much."

"No, I have to bury him!"
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Old 11-22-2017, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
Maybe a team of professional grave diggers then? They'd need every gravedigger in that area to help dig.

Even today, it would take a backhoe a few hours to bury an elephant.
I suspect they probably dug a very shallow grave and built a cairn, rather than fully burying the thing. Especially if they planned to recover the bones.
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Old 11-22-2017, 01:39 PM
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Obligatory Monty Python reference: when I first read the thread title, I read it as "How to burrow through an elephant."
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Old 11-22-2017, 08:03 PM
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I suspect they probably dug a very shallow grave and built a cairn, rather than fully burying the thing. Especially if they planned to recover the bones.
That would account for the complaints about a smell as you approached the grave.
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Old 11-22-2017, 11:13 PM
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I suspect they probably dug a very shallow grave.
But that still leaves the problem of how you move the body into the grave.
A group of men with shovels can dig a hole as deep as necessary, or as shallow as they want.

Either way, you still have to fill the hole with a 6000 pound elephant.
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Old 11-23-2017, 09:09 AM
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But that still leaves the problem of how you move the body into the grave.
A group of men with shovels can dig a hole as deep as necessary, or as shallow as they want.

Either way, you still have to fill the hole with a 6000 pound elephant.
I guess in this case they did need some steenking badgers.
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Old 11-23-2017, 10:17 AM
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If the story of Mary the elephant (photo in Wikipedia article may be disturbing to some) is any indication you dig the hole pretty much where the animal dies. Use a water hose to remove the last bit of earth. Let gravity do the work.
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Old 11-23-2017, 11:02 AM
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Why would you assume burial is the only option?

Tripler
They had creative (if not lazy) people back then. . .
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Old 11-24-2017, 08:53 AM
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In the novel "The Old Wives' Tale", they use two other elephants to assist in loading a dead elephant onto a train car. The (fictional) incident takes place in the 1860s.

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On the previous night one of the three Wombwell elephants had suddenly knelt on a man in the tent; he had then walked out of the tent and picked up another man at haphazard from the crowd which was staring at the great pictures in front, and tried to put this second man into his mouth. Being stopped by his Indian attendant with a pitchfork, he placed the man on the ground and stuck his tusk through an artery of the victim's arm. He then, amid unexampled excitement, suffered himself to be led away. He was conducted to the rear of the tent, just in front of Baines's shuttered windows, and by means of stakes, pulleys, and ropes forced to his knees. His head was whitewashed, and six men of the Rifle Corps were engaged to shoot at him at a distance of five yards, while constables kept the crowd off with truncheons. He died instantly, rolling over with a soft thud. The crowd cheered, and, intoxicated by their importance, the Volunteers fired three more volleys into the carcase, and were then borne off as heroes to different inns. The elephant, by the help of his two companions, was got on to a railway lorry and disappeared into the night. Such was the greatest sensation that has ever occurred, or perhaps will ever occur, in Bursley. The excitement about the repeal of the Corn Laws, or about Inkerman, was feeble compared to that excitement. Mr. Critchlow, who had been called on to put a hasty tourniquet round the arm of the second victim, had popped in afterwards to tell John Baines all about it. Mr. Baines's interest, however, had been slight. Mr. Critchlow succeeded better with the ladies, who, though they had witnessed the shooting from the drawing-room, were thirsty for the most trifling details.

The next day it was known that the elephant lay near the playground, pending the decision of the Chief Bailiff and the Medical Officer as to his burial. And everybody had to visit the corpse. No social exclusiveness could withstand the seduction of that dead elephant. Pilgrims travelled from all the Five Towns to see him.
Later, the elephant is chopped up for souvenirs by the crowd.

Last edited by hogarth; 11-24-2017 at 08:54 AM.
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Old 11-24-2017, 09:28 AM
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Am I the only one that mentally added "Need answer quick!" to the end of the thread title?
No.
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Old 04-18-2018, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Iggy View Post
If the story of Mary the elephant (photo in Wikipedia article may be disturbing to some) is any indication you dig the hole pretty much where the animal dies. Use a water hose to remove the last bit of earth. Let gravity do the work.
Brilliant!
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Old 04-18-2018, 05:17 PM
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Now you've changed your claim, haven't you? You know we haven't got an elephant.
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Old 04-18-2018, 05:27 PM
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This is how the town of Oquawka, Illinois dealt with this issue in 1972.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/...-jean-elephant

Here's a slightly more detailed story.

https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/3619
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Old 04-18-2018, 06:14 PM
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How did they move the elephant from below the bridge into the barn?

Edited to add: I assume a fall from a bridge would have left him incapable of plodding any distance.

Last edited by nelliebly; 04-18-2018 at 06:15 PM. Reason: clarification
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Old 04-18-2018, 10:27 PM
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A group of miners could dig a hole like that by hand in half a day. Also, your quote mentions a mound. So they may have dug partway down and then just carted in dirt to cover him.

Either way, basements and tunnels and mines were dug thousands of years before that. Did you think that humans were incapable of engineering solutions just 150 years ago?

ETA: If I were looking for him, I'd start under the floor of the barn he'd been rotting in.

Last edited by TruCelt; 04-18-2018 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 04-18-2018, 10:39 PM
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I experienced this first hand as a kid (about 10 years old) back in India. Overnight, a mahout had brought his elephant to the entrance door of the cathedral adjoining our school to maybe get some shelter from the rain. The elephant had died in the early hours and we all gathered around it in the morning before school.

Over the next day, a big pit was dug right next to the mortal remains. The elephant was buried with a lot of lime (to help decomposition) into the pit. After almost a year, they dug it back up to recover the bones/ivory (I presume) and moved the remains to another place.

There was a statue of mother Mary right beyond the gates and by coincidence the elephant had died looking at the statue. As a kid, this picture stayed in my mind as if Mother Mary was helping alleviate the elephant’s pain in its last minutes on earth.
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Old 04-19-2018, 04:40 AM
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If you only have lemons, you can always make lemonade, but if you have an elephant you can:

* skin it for taxidermy

* skin it for leather

* make four [count'em, - four!] umbrella stands

* feed your pigs / dogs / multitudinous children who are sick of eating rhinoceros and yak

* sell the bones to a museum

* make bone meal.

In an era when people still made a living from collecting dog shit and dead horses for tanning and other noxious trades, its very likely that the bonanza of a dead elephant would not get over-looked for too long, and numerous freeloaders would have to be kept away from it by a man with a sharpened stick. After all, every pound put to some good use was one less pound that had to rot away.

AND I picture the man as having one of those Amish chin-beards. Douglas Adams suggested the name Scethrog for them, but do they have a proper name?
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Old 04-19-2018, 12:57 PM
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But that still leaves the problem of how you move the body into the grave.
A group of men with shovels can dig a hole as deep as necessary, or as shallow as they want.

Either way, you still have to fill the hole with a 6000 pound elephant.
Archimedes allegedly used blocks and tackle to single-handedly achieve this purpose (though with a ship, not an elephant carcass).
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Old 04-19-2018, 01:13 PM
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But that still leaves the problem of how you move the body into the grave.
If I recall correctly, a big hole was dug near the dead elephant and the hole sloped (inclined) towards the elephant. Ropes were then tied to the elephant’s neck and feed. The ropes were long and went over the whole to be tied to yokes of several bulls. The bulls then pulled the elephant down the incline (while the bulls themselves were on the other side of the hole)
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