Now, at least 10,000 years later, visitors in Los Angeles, California, can see the remains of "Zed," a Columbian mammoth whose nearly intact skeleton is part of what is being described as a key find by archaeologists at Los Angeles' George C. Page Museum.
Zed was discovered at a construction site in the heart of Los Angeles. An earth mover helping to build an underground parking garage near the L.A. County Museum of Art uncovered the mammoth's skull, according to project director Christopher Shaw.
"The skull was hit and shaved off ... by a scraper," Shaw told CNN Thursday. "We don't know just how smashed up it is, but it's fairly intact because it's a huge jacket we put it around."
The mammoth's fossil was among 16 deposits at the site that archaeologists wrapped, along with the surrounding dirt, in plaster jackets, creating 23 boxes weighing between 5 and 53 tons that were then lifted out intact.
The construction was being monitored by an archaeological consulting firm because the site is so close to the La Brea tar pits -- an archeological site that has yielded 100 million bones belonging to 300 species of mammals and birds.
Construction on the parking garage began in 2006, but it took two more years for all the recovered materials to be handed over to researchers at the Page Museum, who began analyzing the various fossils in June, Shaw said.
"It's very exciting for us because each one of these ... could be different ages in the past 10,000 to 45,000 years," Shaw said.
John Harris, the head curator of the Page Museum, publicly announced the finding of "a whole new treasure trove of fossils" on Wednesday. He described it as "the most important discovery" for the museum "of the last 90 years."
Shaw said the announcement was made to "create interest" in the museum's discovery.
Among the most interesting items is likely to be Zed, who is believed to have died in his late 40s. Mammoths are thought to have had an average lifespan of about 60 years.
Not all of Zed's remains have been cleaned off and analyzed.
"Right now we have opened the plaster jacket of four sections that were excavated, including vertebrae and ribs and pelvis, one tusk and the lower jaw," Shaw said. "It will take another six to 12 months to open everything."
Shaw said both of Zed's tusks were found intact, which is very rare.
"Previously, we've found mammoths but the tusk material was very poorly preserved," Shaw said. "It's very exciting to us to have these two complete, beautifully preserved tusks."
February 19, 2009
Mammoth Found in Los Angeles
I thought that this was pretty cool. Think that I might have to take a walk on down to the George C. Page museum. Been a while since I got to see the tar pits.