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Scientists Celebrate Century of Ice Age Fossils Unearthed in La Brea Tar Pits

First Posted: Oct 28, 2013 07:41 AM EDT

Numerous excavations conducted at the La Brea Tar Pits have yielded a diverse array of interesting and fascinating archaeological specimens. It is a treasure trove of some of the richest and best-persevered assemblage of Ice-Age animals right from mammoth to the saber-toothed cats. With the ongoing excavations, scientists are making important discoveries of ancient animals that are trapped in the thick tar pits. 

The rancho La Brea also called as La Brea Tar Pits is one of the best fossil sites in the world. Till date nearly 5.5 million specimens representing some 600 species of plants and animals have been collected. Archaeologists even unearthed an ancient human skeleton from the Tar pits, pools of gooey asphalt, dating back to some 9000 years ago.  

 "Earlier excavations really missed a great part of the story," John Harris, chief curator at the George C. Page Museum, which oversees the fossil collection, was quoted in Associated Press. People "were only taking out bones they could see, but it's the hidden bones that provide clues to the environment."

The Page Museum is giving out free entrance ticket to the museum on Monday, in commemoration of the Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits 100-year anniversary.

The scientists said the site is flooded with such hidden treasures of the Ice Age and it will easily take another century to unearth them. But at the moment, the team has a tedious task of cleaning, identifying and labelling bones that are piled in the shelves of the back storage. According to the estimates of the museum there are nearly 100,000 specimens that require to be catalogued and millions of fossil fragments need to be scrubbed.

"Despite being mined for more than 100 years, the La Brea Tar Pits have remained the most significant source of ice age fossils in this country, if not the world," says Harris. "The thing that has impressed me is the great diversity of different creatures that were somehow trapped in the tar," Harris, who has been with the Page Museum since 1980, was quoted in O89.3 KPCC. "When I first came here, we were recovering all the fossils that we could from Pit 91 and that gave us a much bigger idea of the number of animals and plants preserved in the tar pits."

Some of the fossils fragments buried in the Tar Pits and not unearthed as they scientist plan on removing them once they have access to better tools.

Apart from the free entrance tickets, the Page Museum will also host a free performance of the Ice Age Encounters- in which they will present a saber toothed cat puppet.

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