Anyone who has an interest in the Ice Age will certainly enjoy hearing that Los Angeles has uncovered an impressive collection of Pleistocene ice age fossils, including a nearly complete mammoth (affectionately called Zed). In this article, you will learn what has scientists at the La Brea tar pits abuzz with joy.
Imagine finding hidden secrets to the past positioned beneath an underground garage located at an old May Co. parking structure situated in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park. Workers who were excavating the site had the intentions of expanding parking spaces, but were greeted by what is now becoming the largest known cache of fossils hailing from the last Ice Age.
As researchers sifted through sandy soil, they were excited to learn that they have a chance of surpassing the current collection of Ice Age fossils that are already dubbed the largest in the world. Ever since, the La Brea tar pits have been visited by plenty of researchers from the George C. Page Museum, who are amazed at the enormity of the find.
One of the discoveries that has excited the masses within the paleontology community is the nearly intact skeleton of a Columbian mammoth, whose been given the name Zed. This is a wondrous find since in the past, only random parts of mammoths have been uncovered from the tar pits.
Joining Zed, is an assortment of smaller fossils that shed light on the turtles, snails, clams, millipedes, fish, and gophers of the past. Examples of ancient flora, such as tree trunks and matted oak leaves have also been found. This brings great joy to researchers, who previously missed out on a chance to analyze such fossils. During the early 1900’s, the first people to excavate La Brea passed over the ‘small stuff’ in an attempt to retrieve the bones of animals. Because of this, important details regarding the period were overlooked. In the end, a more complete view of life in the region (dating back 10,000 to 40,000 years ago) can finally be achieved.
All of the finds will add to the collection of the museum, helping to elevate the institution as the most valuable resource pertaining to the Pleistocene ice age.
Additional excitement surrounding the La Brea discovery involves the use of a newly developed technique for extracting fossils. In the past, paleontologists spent days to even weeks cautiously sifting through the soil at an excavation. Today, researchers are looking for more efficient ways of analyzing finds and have placed sizeable pieces of soil from the site in large, wooden crates. They sit at the back lot of the museum, awaiting the details of what has become known as ‘Project 23.’
All in all, the find was a paleontological goldmine with preserved skeletons and valuable pieces of information just waiting for discovery about 10 feet below the surface. The deposits are grand in both quality and quantity. As for Zed, the mammoth skeleton is around 80% complete with nearly intact tusks , an even more rarity. He is only missing one rear leg, a vertebra and the top of his skull, which was unfortunately shaved off, no thanks to excavation equipment.