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Scientists resume digging at La Brea Tar Pits

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 20, 2014 at 11:52 am •  Published: June 20, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The public can once again get a close look at scientists working to uncover the bones of saber-toothed cats, mastodons and mammoths in the heart of Los Angeles.

Officials at La Brea Tar Pits are reopening a shuttered exhibition hall and reactivating an excavation site, allowing visitors to look on as workers dig for prehistoric fossils from a pool of naturally occurring asphalt called Pit 91.

The expanded offerings at the George C. Page Museum, which oversees fossil collections at the tar pits, are meant to make more accessible the science of paleontology and what it can tell us about current issues such as global warming.

"These fossils are a wonderful resource for telling us about the climate change in the past," the museum's chief curator John Harris said.

In late June, the museum will resume free tours of the observation pit, a round mid-century building behind the nearby Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The sunlit hall brings visitors down spiral steps to see the bones of horses and camels trapped in natural asphalt.

Of the five million fossils uncovered at the tar pits, almost a million came from Pit 91. Scientists halted digging there in 2007 to focus on a trove of fossils unearthed during a nearby construction project.

All summer at Pit 91, two paleontologists will sink their trowels into the sticky asphalt, searching for bones and shells, while visitors can watch from a viewing deck. After plucking out bones that are easily visible, the workers will send buckets of goo to a lab where researchers will clean and sift out specimens of insects and plants.

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