LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — For the first time in six years, Pit 91 is back in business at the La Brea Tar Pits.
The site features a glass wall that lets visitors watch scientists as they pull specimens out of the tar.
The pit has a rich history at the museum, where it first opened to the public in the 1960s.
“Close to a million specimens were collected from this very pit, and the number of species that were excavated from this pit doubled the roster of species known from the tar pits from about 300 to about 600,” said Luis Chiappe, vice president of research and collections at the Natural Museum of History in Los Angeles.
Pit 91 was shut down in 2008, when the museum decided to focus its limited staff on a new collection site that turned up during digging for a parking garage at the neighboring la County Museum of Art.
Now, with more staff in place, pit 91 can reopen.
And the work at the pit has also expanded beyond just recovering large bones of wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers.
Scientists are also now examining the sediment around those bones to study tiny microfossils.
“In our early digs, they were just digging up nice, big bones, but with the excavation of Pit 91, we actually just opened a whole new window into understanding the environment right here at the tar pits,” said Shelley Cox, laboratory manager at the Page Museum.
And by reviving Pit 91, they’ve also opened a new window into understanding the real workings of paleontology.