Reading about the Rancho LaBrea Tar Pits as a kid, I had always pictured them as being in some remote area in the hills, surrounded by empty scrubland. And at one time they were--but today the city of Los Angeles has grown outwards, and the tar pits are now surrounded by busy streets and buildings.
The entire site is just a few city blocks in size. Excavations have been going on here for several decades (and still continue today), and several hundred thousand individual bones from 400-odd species have been extracted from the sticky tar. Many of them are now on display at the George Page Museum, located at the site. Although rather small (it only displays things that were actually found in the tar pits), the museum has a very nice collection and is a great place to spend an afternoon.
Here are some photos:
The Page Museum at the LaBrea Tar Pits site.
Me, in front of the Tar Pits.
Reconstructed Mammoths. The pond is the site of the original Tar Pit, which was excavated to a depth of almost 50 feet, and has now filled in with rainwater.
Methane gas and globs of tar still seep out from cracks in the bottom of the pond and float to the surface.
Inside the park, tar still seeps to the surface at various points. These are fenced off.
Tar bubbling to the surface. The whole area smells like a newly-paved parking lot.
During the Ice Ages, between 40,000 and 8,000 years ago, the liquid tar was covered by fallen leaves and rainwater, and animals wandered into it, got stuck, and were buried and preserved.
Excavations are still being carried out at the Tar Pits.
Inside the Page Museum.
Dire Wolf skeletons.
Over 400 Dire Wolf skulls excavated from the tar. The wolves were attracted to the trapped prey animals, and became stuck themselves.
California Sabertooth Cat, Smilodon californicus.
Slightly larger Sabertooth Cat, Smilodon fatalis.
A series of Sabertooth Cat skulls showing the pattern of tooth growth.
Sabertooth Cat rib with the broken tip of another Cat's tooth still embedded in it.
Extinct American horse Equus occidentalis.
American Lion, Panthera atrox.
Harlan's Ground Sloth.
The giant Antique Bison.
Skull of extinct giant American Camel.
A Teratorn giant vulture.
This American Camel jaw was found with fragments of its last meal still stuck to its teeth.
Bones of still-existing species found in the tar.
Black Bear skull.
Skeleton of an extinct Grinnell Eagle.
Even small delicate bones like lizards and snakes are preserved by the tar.
Native American artifacts found preserved in the tar. They also used the tar to waterproof their bowls and baskets.
The lab inside the museum where excavated bones are cleaned.
The skull of a recently-found complete Mammoth skeleton that is currently being cleaned in the lab.