Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ancient History, Los Angeles

Dig up a parking lot and what do you find? Mammoth bones!

How come my brother and I never found anything like that when we decided to excavate our back yard?

Well, for starters, we were probably a little too far from the Tar Pits. And the parking lot being dug up belonged to the old May Company on Wilshire, right down the street from said Tar Pits. The site is called "Project 23" and you can see pictures and details here, courtesy of the Page Museum.

You can even read the Excavator's Blog! Or you can view KTLA's story and photo gallery, or the Los Angeles Times story.

BTW, it's not called Project 23 because the chief paleontologist is a big Jim Carrey fan. No. Because the construction schedule doesn't give them a lot of time to excavate at the site, workers extracted 23 huge aspaltic blocks of material from the parking lot and crated them up in wooden boxes like those used to hold big trees and their roots. Hence the name. One of the crates weighs 56 tons! However, the mammoth skeleton is separate from those 23 crates.

What have the paleontologists found? The nearly intact skeleton of a Columbian Mammoth that they've named Zed, with tusks almost ten feet long. And if you go to the Page Museum, you can watch (through the big glass windows) as scientists remove the protective plaster from the bones and carefully, carefully, study them.

In addition, "The Project 23 excavation team has uncovered over 700 measured specimens including a large pre-historic American Lion skull, lion bones, dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, juvenile horse and bison, teratorn, coyotes, lynx, and ground sloths so far." Per the Page Museum site.

All this dates back to the Pleistocene Ice Age, up to 40,000 years ago. And while bits of at least 34 mammoths have been found at the La Brea Tar Pits, Zed (who stood about 10 feet tall) is the first fairly complete specimen unearthed.

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