Preserved in Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits (or Rancho La Brea Tar Pits) are a famous cluster of tar pits around which Hancock Park was formed, in the urban heart of Los Angeles. Asphalt or tar (brea in Spanish) has seeped up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years. The tar is often covered with water. Over many centuries, animals that came to drink the water fell in, sank in the tar, and were preserved as bones. The George C. Page Museum is dedicated to researching the tar pits and displaying specimens from the animals that died there. The La Brea Tar Pits are a now registered National Natural Landmark.

Tar pits are composed of heavy oil fractions called asphalt, which seeped from the earth as oil. In Hancock Park, crude oil seeps up along the 6th Street Fault from the Salt Lake Oil Field, which underlies much of the Fairfax District north of the park. The oil reaches the surface and forms pools at several locations in the park, becoming asphalt as the lighter fractions of the petroleum biodegrade.

Radiometric dating of preserved wood and bones has given an age of 38,000 years for the oldest known material from the La Brea seeps. The pits still ensnare organisms today.

On February 18, 2009, George C. Page Museum formally announced the 2006 discovery of 16 fossil deposits which had been removed from the ground during the construction of an underground parking garage for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next to the tar pits. Among the finds are remains of a saber-toothed cat, six dire wolves, bison, horses, a giant ground sloth, turtles, snails, clams, millipedes, fish, gophers, and an American lion. Also discovered is a near-intact mammoth skeleton, nicknamed Zed; the only pieces missing are a rear leg, a vertebra and the top of his skull, which was shaved off by construction equipment in preparation to build the parking structure.
These fossils were packaged at the construction site and removed to the museum so that construction could continue. Over twenty large accumulations of tar and specimens were taken to be separated. As work for the public transit Metro Purple Line is extended, museum researchers know that more tar pits will be uncovered, for example near the intersection of Wilshire and Curson.
There have been all forms of life found in the La Brea Pits including, Herbivores like the Stilt-Legged llama and the American Mastodon, Carnivores like the Sabre-toothed and Scimitar Cat, Plants, Birds Reptiles and Omnivores like the Racoon and Human Beings. Ya thats right, Humans.

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1 Response to Preserved in Tar Pits

  1. kevinhornik says:

    Tar pits? Ya don’t say. How cool would it to be preserved in a tar pit and later discovered by cool civilization? Also, how wild would it be to be found so randomly. I mean the guy was putting in a parking garage, its not like he was actually looking for stuff…

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