Zed the Mammoth Unearthed From Under an L.A. Department Store

By Rachel Cernansky | February 18, 2009 3:31 pm

mammoth.jpgExcavators have unearthed the largest known cache of fossils from the last ice age. In it, a Colombian mammoth, which researchers have named Zed, has become the first nearly intact mammoth to be found near the La Brea tar pits, where an estimated 34 mammoths have been found previously, but only in bits and pieces.

Zed was found in good company: among other finds were the skeletons of a complete saber-toothed cat, a giant ground sloth, and a North American lion, as well as smaller fossils including pieces of tree trunks, turtles, snails, and gophers. Even these smaller findings are exciting for paleontologists, because the first excavators at La Brea in the 1900s discarded such items as they searched for larger ones; crucial information was lost in the process. The new discovery, which was found at a site beneath the demolished May department store in Los Angeles, “gives us the opportunity to get a detailed picture of what life was like 10,000 to 40,000 years ago” in the Los Angeles Basin, said John Harris, chief curator at the [nearby George C. Page Museum]. The find will make the museum “the major library of life in the Pleistocene ice age” [Los Angeles Times].Missing only rear leg missing, a vertebra, and the top of his skull—which was shaved off by excavation equipment—Zed is believed to be about 80 percent intact. That includes his tusks, which is rare because unlike bones, the material they are made of, called dentin, is quite fragile. He is still being cleaned and most details have yet to be learned. All researchers know so far is that he stood about 10 feet tall at the hip and was 47 to 49 years old. Mammoths normally lived to about 60, so Zed died prematurely. Curators have found three broken ribs that were healed before his death. He probably got them from fighting with other male mammoths, “or he was just clumsy as hell,” said Shelley M. Cox, who is supervising the cleaning [Los Angeles Times].

Though excavation is still in early stages, researchers expect to double what is already the world’s largest collection from this period. They are using a new technique to extract the fossils (with the exception of Zed, who was extracted using conventional methods): Instead of sifting through soil at the dig site, they have removed large chunks of earth and placed them, intact, in 23 wooden crates in a lot at the museum. Hence, the excavation has been informally named Project 23.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: 69. Frozen Baby Mammoth Unearthed
80beats: The Last Mammoths Made a Round Trip Across the Bering Land Bridge

Image: Flickr / sethoscope

  • http://discovermagazine.com John Cassady

    The title really should be cashe of fossils discovered considering it never explains why they were digging under a department store.

  • Darren

    The following quote from the article explained why the dig occurred,

    ‘The new discovery, which was found at a site beneath the demolished May department store in Los Angeles’

  • Bruce Voigt

    California sure gets around doesn’t it!

    In the year ? mammoths are thriving in warm sunny California when an asteroid hits the Earth and because of debris blocking the sun an ice age develops, (hard to swallow that one!) How about the one that describes volcano activity (not that one either.) OK how about plate tectonics where California slides up to the north pole (that’s harder yet.) Well just maybe —

    The Earth in its orbit around the Sun both magnetically interact giving us our Seasons. Normally there are two “dramatic” Earth tippings a year. One in late summer or fall when the Suns north magnetic pole severs with the Earths north magnetic pole and one in late winter or early spring when the Suns south magnetic pole severs with the Earths south magnetic pole.

    ————reported was that the pole was moving 85km every 24hrs.

    The date, time and distance of these tippings (magnetic pole movement) is at this time crucial and I’ll explain it this way.
    When the Earth tipped that one thousand miles it moved the magnetic pole location one thousand miles in the opposite direction moving the Equator (Sun exposure) one thousand miles. Last winter Russia was getting the cold from the closer pole and loosing the heat of Sun exposure. This year its opposite.

    This is real important Stuph and all we need is to have some one monitor these tippings. We would then know what and where crops should be planted, where to plan our skiing etc. (Vancouver’s 2010 winter games!)

    Like I say we really need some one to take charge and properly monitor Magnetic Pole Movement. Believe me its for the good of OUR WORLD!

  • ATC

    Bruce, I’m sure the animals 10-40 k-years ago were thinking along those lines hense the migratory route they took going North and South that is still here today, the Grand Canyon, that took a lot of feet to pound that hole into the ground…Seriously, if you haven’t visited the La Brea Tar pits do so, down right cool.

  • Bruce Voigt

    Published: Monday, February 02, 2009
    The discovery of a 90-million-year-old turtle fossil in the Canadian Arctic — thousands of kilometres from the ancient reptile’s original freshwater habitat in Asia — is shedding new light on the temperate past of the polar north and the trans-Arctic migrations of prehistoric creatures.
    ATC — I have trudged through the barren lands of Canada’s Arctic and have seen evidence that this land in times past was subject to salt water ocean, evidence of prehistoric inhabitants that would indicate a tropical environment.

    You have a choice here, You can either believe that the Arctic was once hot (that damn global warming thing again) and believe the garbage of plate tectonics. Or you can consider my science in that the Earth moves around on its North South magnetic Axis changing its exposure to both Sun and Moon.

    It is of GREAT IMPORTANCE to establish a constant monitoring system for Canada’s North Magnetic Pole Movements. — WOBBLING of the EARTH

    A little about what really formed the Grand Canyon
    A really easy experiment!
    Stop into a candle shop and buy a buck and a half small pure bees wax candle. Scrape a small amount of wax into a large spoon then think of a lemon and add a bit of your spittle. Hold the spoon over a lit candle melting the wax and mix well. Put the spoon aside and next day after spittle has evaporated, well are you in for a surprise.

    This simple experiment will motivate you to try soy (reg candle) and if you can find some wax right from the hive. Adding things like rain drops, water from lakes, creeks and ocean produces intriguing results. Also try things like poring the elixir over a large cold flat surface.

    As you will discover by these experiments it’s not hard to believe that when the Earth tips away from it’s magnetic axis enough to initiate a change in Moon and Sun exposure. That by ocean relocation and its absorption of the forces of matter it now engulfs. Strange things happen —–
    By chewing pollen the bee produces a glob of wax. Immediately after the placement, the saliva or water of the glob interacts in repelling the wax away from the glob’s nucleus.

    The wax takes on the shape produced from the three nuclei orbits of the water nucleus. What is called evaporation leaves an empty six pole or six sided wax structure.

  • Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)

    @Bruce Voigt: Your comments are going too far afield from our posts, from science, and indeed from evidence. I’m going to request that you to bring your comments closer to the active discussion that other readers are having about the topics we cover. If you do not, I will start barring and/or erasing your comments.

  • http://TwoSistersArtandSoul Lisette Root

    What a treasure! One of the things I love most is the fact that bones and fossils do not lie. They just exist, and it is awesome to find a piece of our past. And to find the tusks also, wow! How wonderful to find so many other fossils as well. Congratulations to all, sincerely.


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