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La Brea Tar Pits Virtual Field trip

Rancho La Brea

Rancho La Brea was a Mexican Land Grant of over 4,400 acres given to Antonio Jose Rocha in 1828, with the proviso that the residents of the pueblo could have access to as much asphalt as they needed for personal use. As Los Angeles grew, the Rancho was eventually subdivided and developed. Its last owner was George Allan Hancock, who recognized the scientific importance of the fossils found in the asphaltic deposits.

Peak Excavations

Between 1905 and 1915, excavation at Rancho La Brea was at its peak. Foreign and domestic institutions became interested in acquiring fossils from the area and sent individuals or crews to collect and visiting amateurs were known to take away many souvenirs.The largest and best-documented collections at that time were made by the Los Angeles Museum between 1913 and 1915. During this period, 96 sites were excavated yielding well over 750,000 specimens of plants and animals.

Peak Excavations

During the mid-twentieth century excavation and data-gathering techniques improved, as did our ability to extract knowledge from data and specimens neither noted nor collected by the early excavators. Early collectors concentrated their efforts on the remains of the larger, more spectacular plants and animals and rarely noticed or collected those of smaller organisms, and important information pertaining to geology and specimen orientation was not often recorded.

Parking Lot Discovery

Early in 2006, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art began construction of an underground parking garage at the west end of Hancock Park. Within the confines of the future structure, 16 previously unknown asphaltic fossil deposits were discovered along with the skeleton of a near-complete Columbian mammoth. Since the summer of 2008, staff has been excavating the boxes and preparing the mammoth material. Dubbed Project 23, the fossils retrieved from this salvage effort may double the size of the existing collections.

La Brea Tar Pits Virtual Field Trip