The George C. Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits has opened up Pit 91 again so the public can observe paleontologists at work uncovering bones of mastodons and mammoths, fossils of flora and fauna. Visitors will have the opportunity to see Pit 91 in action if they order a timed ticket for the new Excavator Tours that begin June 28, 2014.
Pit 91 has been closed since 2007 when the museum scientists had to redirect their attention to fossils being recovered in the dig for a new parking garage at the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), in Hancock Park. Of the 5 million fossils found to date by the Page, over 1 million came from Pit 91 which is still yielding finds even after being worked for 40 years.
Visitors to Pit 91 will get to watch from a viewing deck as paleontologists carefully use trowels and picks to search for and dig out the larger bones and shell remnants from the moist asphalt. They will also send buckets of the black tar to a lab to pull out the very tiny microfossils of plants and insects that tell much about the climate and ecosystems of the ancient past, some 11,000-50,000 years ago.
Lab volunteers do the majority of day-to-day preparation of fossils excavated from the park. Currently there are more than 65 volunteers, between 18 and 90 years old, who contribute about 200 hours per week to lab projects. The volunteer excavators receive preliminary training in the Fossil Lab, learn about the Pleistocene flora and fauna as well as the techniques necessary to prepare asphaltic fossils. After completing 96 hours in the lab, approved volunteers have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and dig outside. It is a long-standing tradition that excavators provide nicknames for the fossils that they work on.
The new Excavator Tour is designed to show visitors the highlights of the museum and the park and is free with admission, but requires a timed ticket. Book your tickets online to reserve a space. Tours begin inside the Fossil Lab, then move outdoors to the Observation Pit and Project 23. Word has it that the tours will continue only through the summer months, so get in soon.La Brea Tar Pits Excavator Tours The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits 5801 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036 (213) 763-3499 Monday-Friday: 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm, and 3:30 pm Saturday-Sunday: 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm