Scientists at the La Brea Tar Pits are contending with a host of historical treasures as the LA Metro moves forward with construction of the Purple Line.
The new Metro line passes underneath Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, home to one of the richest, most well-preserved fossil deposits in the world.
"The people of LA are incredibly lucky to have this resource right in the middle of the city," said Emily Lindsey, the excavation site director. She describes the tar pits bounty as the "go-to" place for fossil identification.
Last week, excavation crews delivered a baby mammoth skull to the La Brea Tar Pits museum, and the project has already yielded several other remains dating back to the Ice Age.
The La Brea Tar Pits collection includes 3 to 5 million fossils and a team of paleontologists works 361 days a year to sift through their own depositories.
Ten years ago, fossils poured into the museum when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art started building a new parking structure.
Lindsey believes the influx of material could take another 15 years to analyze, and the Metro extension is sure to add hundreds more to their collection,
The LA Metro owns any fossils that are excavated during construction based on a memorandum of understanding with the La Brea Tar Pits. Cogstone Resource Management, a mitigation company, will curate all the finds at the museum.
Visitors to the museum will be able to watch the scientists working on the fossils, including the baby mammoth skull and an adult mammoth tusk.
Because most of California was underwater when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the discoveries are expected to be primarily mammals, birds, plants and insects from the Cenozoic Era.
After the project is completed, the fossils will be donated to either the Los Angeles Natural History Museum or the La Brea Tar Pits based on the presence of asphalt.
As the construction crew digs deeper, they also have a chance of hitting upon an older marine layer filled with sediment and shells.
“If we’re lucky, maybe some cool sea animals, like sea lions,” Lindsey said.
Take a look at excavation images from the La Brea Tar Pits, ranging from tiny insects to humongous mastodons.