Nature as Art – Sandra Wagner

Recently I was in Los Angeles and spent a day at the La Brea Tar Pits.  I don’t know if you are familiar with the Tarpits History Museum aka Page Museum but it is in the heart of LA and was discovered in the 1920’s when the owner of the Rancho La Brea found bones in the asphalt that had seeped up from under the ground.  They contacted the Los Angeles County Museum and a dig was started.  The first time I saw it it was a bubbling tar pit that was fenced in and made burpy sounds (this was in the 50’s) and smelled awful.  In 1971 the Page Museum was built and the wonderfully preserved animals were taken out of storage and found a new home. 

The beginning of natures art work is figured at 38,000 years ago.  The unusually high quality of fossil preservation of  the animals, birds and 1 human was because the bones were buried rapidly by the  asphalt.  The guide stated that the asphalt did not act like quicksand but you became stuck and could not get out – this is shown where some of the animals were attacked and killed while they were stuck – both animals dying as the tar bubbled over them.

They found Juniper Trees, Golden Eagles, Sabertooth Cat, Shasta and Attacking Ground Slouth, Coyotes, Dire Wolfs, American Lions, many Birds, 1 Person and  Ancient Bison plus others.

I have included some pictures I took – if you want more information go to also if you are in the area it is worth the time to see.


animal1This is the way the animals were found – the tusks are man made – in most cases the tusks did not survive the removal from the pit.

             “America Mastodon”

             “Yesterday’s Camel”

















                                 This is a Columbian Mammoth – the tusks again were man made.  I have a picture of the leg from the knee down – The size is truly mammoth. 

animal4              birdThe bird is a California Condor and was about 2.5 ft. tall.  They have the working lab – the  fish bowl – in the museum so you can see the people working on the pieces.  Below are 2 parts of NED a recent discovery.

ned   nedt2


There is storage around the entire building between the outer and inner walls and this houses all the parts of the fossils.  Below is Pit 91 which they have just hit the bottom of.  They work only in the summer months in the pits and will be opening up another pit in the near future.


It is a dirty job but someone has to do it.  You can volunteer just bring hip boots, BIG gloves, back brace and a mask.  If I was a lot younger I think spending a summer doing this would be a great adventure.

Hope this isn’t to far removed from the art world but when I saw what nature had done I thought you might enjoy it also.



1 Response to “Nature as Art – Sandra Wagner”

  1. 1 clairan April 10, 2009 at 4:23 am

    This was fascinating, Sandra. I enjoyed it — I love bones. Have you been to the Mammoth site at Hot Springs in South Dakota? Worth a trip!

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