Reviewed by: Marissa Staller, 7th & 8th grade Science Teacher, LAUSD
Location: , GPS Coordinates: ( )
View Larger Map
The Rancho La Brea Tar Pits (commonly referred shortened to the La Brea Tar Pits) are a cluster of tar pits in the urban heart of Los Angeles. In this area, tar (brea in Spanish) has been seeping up from the ground for tens of thousands of years. Often, the asphalt would form a deposit thick enough to trap animals, and the surface would be covered with layers of water, dust, and leaves. Animals would wander in to drink, become trapped, and die. Predators would also enter to eat the trapped animals and become stuck. The animals were then preserved as bones. The La Brea Tar Pits have become famous as one of the most famous fossil areas in the world.
Fossils of prehistoric species found at the La Brea Tar Pits include mammoths, dire wolves, short-faced bears, ground sloths, and saber-toothed cats. Only one human has ever been found, a partial skeleton of a woman who lived approximately 10,000 years ago. Other fossils, including fossilized insects and plants, and even pollen grains, are also valued. These fossils help define a picture of what is thought to have been a cooler, moister climate in the Los Angeles basin during the glacial age.
On site at the La Brea Tar Pits lies the George C. Page Museum, a museum and research station dedicated to researching the tar pits and displaying specimens from the animals that have died there. In addition to bone specimens, the museum contains short films describing the history of the area and the pits, an old animatronic sloth and sabertooth exhibit, an outdoor atrium, and an interactive "experience how difficult it is to pull something out of the tar" exhibit. One of the most interesting features at the museum, especially for students, is windows through which visitors can watch bones being cleaned and repaired.
Overall, the La Brea Tar Pits is a famous and easily accessible paleontological site because it is in a large city, with dramatic exhibits well presented at the George C. Page Museum.
The La Brea Tarpits and Page museum are currently managed by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the research and preservation of Los Angeles's natural and cultural history.
Science Concepts Addressed:
***See attachment for answer key***
La Brea Tar Pits Study Guide
Directions: Based on class lecture and information in the exhibits, define each of the following key vocabulary terms:
Directions: Complete each of the following tasks.
What do you see?
What do you smell?
What do you hear?
What makes the bubbles?
Gently rub some sage between your fingers and smell – how would you describe the scent? These super strong Ice Age survivors can be found around LA.
Draw some sage leaves here:
How many fossils have been found so far?
What is project 23?
How did it get its name?
What does it mean to excavate?
What has been found so far?
Directions: Using information found in the exhibits of the Page Museum and on the placards by the main tar pits, answer the following questions:
For additional information:
Harris, J. M. and Jefferson, G.T. (eds.) 1985. Rancho La Brea: Treasures of the Tar Pits. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.