What Are the La Brea Tar Pits?


Quick Answer

The La Brea Tar Pits are a group of tar pits in urban Los Angeles, Calif. They are surrounded by Hancock Park in the city’s Miracle Mile section of the Mid-Wilshire district. According to the George P. Page Museum, natural asphalt, or tar, has seeped up from the ground in this area for thousands of years. Over many centuries, the bones of animals trapped in the tar pits were preserved.

Continue Reading
What Are the La Brea Tar Pits?
Credit: Barry Winiker Photolibrary Getty Images

Full Answer

The La Brea Tar Pits are a registered National Natural Landmark. The Page Museum, located in Hancock Park, researches the tar pits and displays specimens from the animals that died there. The tar pits are composed of heavy oil that seeps up to the surface and forms pools at several locations. This seepage has happened for tens of thousands of years. During this time, animals wandered into the pits, became trapped and eventually died. Predators then entered the pits to eat their prey and also become trapped.

According to the Page Museum, the tar pits visible today are actually from human excavation. The lake pit was originally an asphalt mine. Further excavation took place between 1913 and 1915, when over 100 pits were uncovered while searching for animal bones. As the skeletal remains of dead animals sink into the oil pits, they turn a dark-brown or black color. Dating of preserved wood and bones indicates that the oldest known materials from the La Brea pits are 38,000 years old.

Learn more about The West

Related Questions