Travel Magazine

The La Brea Tar Pits: A Treasure Trove of Ice Age Fossils in Los Angeles

By Carolinearnoldtravel
The La Brea Tar Pits:  A Treasure Trove of Ice Age Fossils in Los AngelesThe George C. Page Museum, which houses the Ice Age fossils found in the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits, sits in the heart of the busy city of Los Angeles.  The sticky tar found in the area around the museum,  not only trapped unwary animals 40,000 years ago, but preserved their bones after they died, providing us with one of the world’s  richest sources of information about life in the Ice Age.  Recently, when a parking garage was being excavated for the adjacent County Art Museum, a spectacular new cache of fossils was discovered, which included the remains of dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, horses, bison, and ground sloths, as well as hundreds of smaller animals and plants.  Most rare of all was a well-preserved male Columbian mammoth fossil, nearly complete, with 10-foot long tusks. He has been nicknamed Zed. Scientists estimate that this new find could double the collection of fossils by three to four million specimens.
The La Brea Tar Pits:  A Treasure Trove of Ice Age Fossils in Los AngelesThe tar pits and Page Museum are my favorite places to take visitors to Los Angeles.  Nowhere else on Earth is there a place like it.  In geologic time, 10,000 years ago is quite recent.  It is not hard to imagine that if we were living in California back then (and there were Native Americans living in the Los Angeles basin at that time) that we could have had mammoths in our back yards. The fact that the tar has preserved so many of the animals that lived in California during the Ice Age, and which are now extinct, makes the La Brea discoveries unique.
The La Brea Tar Pits:  A Treasure Trove of Ice Age Fossils in Los AngelesThe Rancho La Brea Tar Pits are on land that once belonged to Captain G. Allen Hancock, who operated oil wells there.  Today, the oil wells are gone, and the land is a county park named after Captain Hancock.  In the park are both the tar pits, including pit 91 which is still being excavated, and the George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries.  Several models of Ice Age animals, including giant ground sloths and a short-faced bear, are also located in the park.  In the lake outside the museum, models of a mother and baby mammoth appear to be sinking into the tar, just as real mammoths met their deaths in the past.
The La Brea Tar Pits:  A Treasure Trove of Ice Age Fossils in Los AngelesThe remains of over 420 different kinds of animals are among the Rancho La Brea discoveries.  Most fossils found at Rancho La Brea are used for scientific research, but inside the museum are representative examples of all the larger animals, providing visitors with an appreciation of the enormous variety of life that roamed the Los Angeles basin 10,000 to 40,000 years ago.  Many of the bones excavated from the tar pits are of predators–dire wolves, sabertooth cats, American lions (yes, North America did once have lions), and short-faced bears.  One of my favorite exhibits is a frieze of dire wolf skulls.  The remains of more than 1600 dire wolves, more than those of any other single animal, have been found at Rancho La Brea.  The wolves hunted in packs.  When their prey became stuck in tar and they jumped on to attack it, the wolves often became victims of the tar as well.
The La Brea Tar Pits:  A Treasure Trove of Ice Age Fossils in Los AngelesThe museum is very kid-friendly, with numerous hands-on exhibits.  You can touch a fossil bone, try to pull a rod out of sticky tar, or listen to the roar of an animated wooly mammoth. I always take visitors to watch the short movie that introduces the museum and gives an overview of the Ice Age and tar pit discoveries.  You can also look through a window into the lab and see people cleaning and sorting fossils.  Some of the most important finds are the micro-fossils, small bits of plants, seeds, bones, and other remains that provide clues to the overall environment.
Details:
The Page Museum is open 9:30 to 5:00 pm every day of the year except July 4, Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and January 1.  For information about tickets, parking, directions, and everything you need to know to plan a visit, go the the Page Museum website plan-your-trip page.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Tips for Travelling Alone

    Every time the travel bug hits us, we immediately start dreaming about the wildest of itineraries and where in the world to venture, and I am sure you do as... Read more

    The 11 June 2014 by   Latitude34
    TRAVEL, VACATION
  • Five Selfish Reasons to Add Volunteering to Your Travels

    Let’s face it; volunteering our time and effort to a worthy cause is a nice, feel-good thing to do.  For many of us, however, the idea of doing work when we... Read more

    The 28 June 2014 by   Davedtc
    DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, VACATION
  • Your Inner Road-Tripper

    Alone, with friends or family, by motorbike, bus, airplane or riding a lawnmower, what these movies share is the theme that it doesn’t matter how, where... Read more

    The 17 June 2014 by   Frontiergap
    TRAVEL
  • What It’s Like to Be a a Traveler from a 2nd World County: Visas

    Part 1. *I’ve started writing this post and it turned out to be really long as I’d wanted to give fool-proof tips and advice. Promise to publish the 2nd... Read more

    The 27 June 2014 by   Elena
    TRAVEL
  • 10 Stunning Castles You Should See in Eastern France

    Before I actually moved to Besancon, capital city of Franche-Comte region, I knew nothing of this region. Unfortunately, so does quite a lot of people... Read more

    The 24 June 2014 by   Elena
    TRAVEL
  • La Casa Di Peppe, Positano

    La Casa di Peppe was the spot we called home for the 5 days we spent in Positano, and it really did feel like home. Peppe and Rachael, treat you like family... Read more

    The 26 June 2014 by   Francoisetmoi
    DESTINATIONS, LIFESTYLE, TRAVEL
  • Mes Parents

    My parents touched down in Paris a mere 30 hours after I had (having just returned from K's wedding in Lake Tahoe, California). Read more

    The 12 June 2014 by   Danielleabroad
    DIARIES, SELF EXPRESSION, TRAVEL

Add a comment