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The La Brea tar pit: from 250,000 years ago

At La Brea, now within Los Angeles, oil has seeped from the rock for many thousands of years. Drying out into a sticky tar, it has proved a treacherous place for animals which stray on to its surface. They have been doing so, and sinking in, since at least 250,000 years ago.

Here, pickled in asphalt, are the remains of many animals which once inhabited north America: the mastodon (a smaller species of elephant), the sabre-toothed tiger, the camel, a vulture with a 12-foot (3.6m) wing span, and the horse - later hunted to extinction in this part of the world by man. Some of the bones from about 15,000 years ago seem to show cuts inflicted by early Americans.


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