What are the La Brea Tar Pits?

The Page Museum, Los Angeles, is located on a site of great palaeontological significance. It’s home to La Brea Tar Pits, an ancient death-trap for megafauna that roamed the area 10,000-40,000 years ago. Here, subterranean bitumen leaked to the surface creating a gloopy bog of tar. Mammals like the mastodon (an elephant ancestor) and other giant herbivores stumbled into the morass and drowned. Predators such as Smilodon were attracted by the alarm calls of struggling prey and converged on what seemed to be an easy meal, only to become trapped themselves. The asphalt from the tar pit was being used by settlers 300 years ago, but it wasn’t until 1875 that William Denton discovered La Brea’s scientific importance. Since excavations started in 1913, over 3.5 million fossils have been found here, including 2,500 sabre-toothed cats.