Friday, April 9, 2010

Hancock Park and La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles

This bust of Captain G. Allan Hancock stands in Hancock Park. The sculpture honors Capt. Hancock, who was a sea captain, oilman, explorer, developer, banker, aviator, scientist, businessman, railroad engineer, musician, and philanthropist [1]. In 1913 he granted Los Angeles County the exclusive privilege to excavate at his Rancho La Brea for a period of two years [2]. A fossil tooth of a saber-toothed cat had been found at this place along with many other interesting fossil bones and remains—well-preserved in asphaltic sediments. During the two-year-period many more bones were excavated. In May 1915, Hancock donated parts of the Rancho land to Los Angeles County for exhibition and preservation of the scientific findings and excavation sites.

Today, this land, surrounded by Wilshire Blvd., Curson Ave., 6th Street and Ogden Ave., features various little park trails, circling around a bubbling lake pit, excavation pits, an amphitheater and a Pleistocene Garden. The Hancock sculpture is not alone in this park: life-size sculptures of Pleistocene animals are “roaming” the park land and close-by sculptures of the L.A. County Art Museum such as “Phoenix” by Alexander Liberman can be seen. Art meets paleontology. More pleistocenic animations and a rich Ice Age fossil collection are housed inside the Page Museum, where visitors also can watch scientists working on whatever new bones came out of the asphalt deposits. Ice Age biodiversity in your view at their hands.

Getting there
From downtown Los Angeles go west on Wilshire Boulevard toward Beverly Hills. Hancock Park, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum are located between 5801 and 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. Turn right on Curson Avenue and find parking to the left behind the Page Museum. A better way: take the bus or come by bike!

References and links
[1] Captain G. Allan Hancock.
[2] Chester Stock (revised by John M. Harris):
Rancho La BreaA Record of Pleistocene Life in California. Seventh Edition. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 2001 (ISSN 0079-0943); pages 3-4.
[3] Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits.

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