The La Brea Tar Pits

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been fascinated by the mega fauna (big animals) that lived before and during the last Ice Age. These animals were similar but much bigger and in some cases vastly different to the animals we are used to seeing. Today I got my chance to visit the most prolific site for Ice Age mega fauna fossils yet discovered.

The La Brea tar pits are located in downtown Los Angeles, only a few blocks from Beverly Hills. They are referred to as tar pits; however, they are not actually pits but shallow seeps of asphalt that bubble up from an underground reservoir. The asphalt began to reach the surface about 30,000 years ago and that’s when the animals in the area began to get trapped in the sticky goo. Once an animal became stuck, its fate was sealed. While major entrapment events only occurred about once a decade, they account for the millions of fossils at the site.

Paleontologists are still actively working at the site and discovering new fossils every day. The current dig has yielded the most complete Columbian Mammoth skeleton to date and the only complete tusk ever found. If you visit in the summer, you can even see an active dig underway in the observation pit.

The museum is a great place to get acquainted with the animals that roamed North America and the Los Angeles area more than 10,000 years ago.