Saturday, February 21, 2009
Image sourced here
Some good can come of building parking garages, at least when you are building them underground in Los Angeles's Hancock Park neighborhood. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art had gotten special dispensation to take over a lot owned by the defunct May Department store in an area near the La Brea tar pits. They had to get special dispensation to build because the Rancho La Brea area is considered a protected site.
One thing getting the dispensation meant was that their had to be a salvage archaeologist on site. The Los Angeles Times reports that, "the work fell to Robin Turner, founder of ArchaeoPaleo Resource Management Inc. of Culver City, which previously had overseen work on other sites at or near the tar pits." They quoted Turner, "I knew we would find fossils... but I never expected to find so many deposits. There was an absolutely remarkable quantity and quality."
One of the biggest finds was a nearly intact skeleton of a Columbian mammoth. It appears to be about 80% complete, missing only one rear leg, a vertebra and the top of its skull. Researchers are also excited that the tusks are nearly intact, a rarity since they are made of dentin, which is much more fragile than animal bone.
The LA Times reports the excavators under Turner pioneered new mass soil removal techniques to meet deadlines to have the site cleared, while preserving the archaeological sanctity of the earth. They used huge wooden boxes constructed on-site and cranes to excavate boxcar sized crates of soil in intact chunks. The largest one weighed more than 120,000 pounds. This technique proved wildly successful in preserving remains.
The LA Times says that, in so far only a tiny portion of the crate excavation, scientists have found, "a complete saber-tooth cat skeleton, six dire-wolf skulls and bones from two other saber-tooth cats, a giant ground sloth, and a North American lion. The tar has yielded more than 700 individual plant and animal specimens, 400 of which have been cataloged."
Read the whole fascinating article here.