The elephant in the room: mapping the footsteps of historic elephants with big game hunting collections
This article examines the artefacts of big game hunting in female elephants from East Africa, natural history collections of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A contextual object biography approach is utilized to analyse the life histories of these specimens through the use of archival and isotopic evidence. Emphasis is placed on the example of an elephant shot on Mt Elgon, Kenya, in 1902, parts of which were preserved and shipped to England for curation and display in the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent. The results of isotopic analyses on some of the remains reveal a life history that has implications for developing conservation strategies for modern elephant populations in the region and contribute baseline data critical for interpreting the isotopic signatures of ancient ivory believed to have been exported from eastern Africa.