Some people say there is no history to point to in Southern California. I don’t agree.
People make entirely too much fuss about buildings, don’t you think? I took this photo of Mt. Wilson from my front yard today. I thought the sight of the late afternoon sun shining on the San Gabriel Mountains was breathtaking.
Mountains are history. They tell a story. But since I’ve decided to recap our summer adventures I think I’ll start with something not quite as beautiful as my mountains, in favor of another story. How do you feel about primordial goo?
To celebrate the end of Kindergarten we kicked off summer with a Miss Sophia request…and off we went to the La Brea Tar Pits.
Our young paleontologist-in-training was persistent in her effort to visit the George C. Page Museum. Affiliated with the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, this on-site treasure houses and displays the more than one million bones that have been excavated from these pits.
I must admit this is a very exciting opportunity to let the mind roam to consider life in Southern California 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. Now that’s some impressive history!
The surrounding land is so rich in fossil deposits that the 1975 excavation of the museum’s foundation led to new depths of bone and plant material requiring careful salvaging. Contractors assisted paleontologists in carefully preserving 20 blocks of fossils, many of which have yet to be completely studied.
The gooey asphalt, a great preservative, gives us thousands of perfect skulls and complete skeletons–more than 200 vertebrate species to better understand the animal life that once roamed the area. And speaking of the area…
The Tar Pits and museum are on the same piece of land as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. You recognize my favorite boulder, don’t you?
With the 2006 expansion of LACMA’s underground parking structure, sixteen previously undiscovered asphalt pools, rich in fossil deposits including the skeleton of a well-preserved Columbian Mammoth, were unearthed. There’s enough fossil material to keep paleontologists busy for quite some time.
Called Project 23, the public is encouraged to watch some of the paleontologists and volunteers at work as they sift through the set-aside material. We were fortunate to be on-site when a Smilodon thigh bone was discovered.
These bones, well-preserved in oil and tar, still reveal DNA sequencing. Don’t be expecting a Jurassic Park headline anytime too soon, but it definitely captures the imagination.
The Fishbowl Lab also allows the visitor to watch paleontological activity and microfossil sorting. The museum uses trained volunteers for some of this tedious work–oh, if I lived just a little bit closer!
And every visitor should plan to walk through the lovely gardens to find the furthest point on the grounds–Pit 91. Of the more than 100 pits, 91 is the most regularly excavated.
I do love this place! And I have hundreds of photos…but don’t worry. I think instead of showing them to you, I’m simply going to encourage you come for a visit! Where else can you catch such a complete look at the Pleistocene Epoch?