A few years ago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) found a mammoth in their parking garage. It was dead, of course. The mammoth was one of hundreds of fossil specimens recovered in the expansion of the museum’s underground parking garage.
They were expecting this.
LACMA is built directly next to the La Brea Tar Pits, an area where oil has been bubbling up to the surface of the earth for thousands of years. In that time, many animals got stuck in the tar, causing a very local high density of fossils. There’s a particularly high number of dire wolf finds, because they would run up to prey stuck in the tar – and then get stuck themselves.
I saw the mammoth tusks from the parking garage during my first visit to the Tar Pits in 2008, but it didn’t hit the news until 2009. Volunteers already told everyone about it.
The Page Museum on site has amazing volunteers who give tours, or who answer questions from visitors in between cleaning samples.
I’ve now been to the Tar Pits three times – every time I’ve visited LA. It’s my favourite place in the city, because it’s so out-of-place. It’s a really nice part of LA, but with smelly tar bubbling out of the ground!
It’s also one of my favourite science travel destinations. Probably my number one favourite of all the ones I’ve written about on here so far.
You can follow all our science-y travels on the Have Science Will Travel map.