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Rebecca and Neda find bubbling black goo in Los Angeles!
September 20, 2000


A recreation of a trapped mammoth appears in a bubbling pit along busy Wilshire Boulevard
My friend Neda and I decided to visit downtown Los Angeles. We found what we expected to find - many tall buildings made of metal and glass, lots of restaurants and stores, and people walking everywhere. One thing we did not expect to find in Los Angeles was a bubbling mess of sticky, black goo!

We learned that this messy, sticky goo was a collection of tar pits called the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits. These mucky pits are right in the middle of the city and every day, busy businessmen and women pass by them during their lunch breaks. These busy people did not seem to realize that they were passing by thousands of years of history!

The skull of a mammoth Mammoth!
Neda and I we were not going to pass by these pits without learning more about them. We decided to get a little closer and discovered that these sticky pits were places where scientists were digging up the bones of animals that lived thousands of years ago! Dr. Harris, one of the workers at the tar pit, told us that saber-toothed cats, elephant-like mammoths, dire wolves, and huge ground sloths used to live in this area 30,000 years ago. (Of course, way back then, it wasn't called Los Angeles. People didn't even live in this part of the world yet!)

"So, if people didn't' live here back then," I asked, "how do you know that those animals lived here?"

"Good question!" Dr. Harris said. "Follow me and I'll show you."

After pulling plastic booties over our sneakers, we followed Dr. Harris down a tall ladder into the pit called Pit #91. At the bottom of this giant hole, we found scientists who were digging and scraping at the walls of this tar hole. "There's your answer," Dr. Harris said as he pointed toward a giant bone sticking out of the tar! We learned that this bone was the ancient leg bone of a giant mammoth and that there were bones from different animals all over these pits.

Dr. Harris told us that all of these animals lost their lives when they were passing through these pits, thousands of years ago. They sunk into the gooey black tar and died, but today, their bones remain. The gooey tar has preserved the animals' bones and that is how scientists know who was living in Los Angeles long, long ago!


Please email me at: rebecca@ustrek.org


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