Crenshaw/LAX project unearths piece of Leimert Park’s ancient history

Environmental monitors working underground at the site of the future Martin Luther King Jr. Station on the Crenshaw/LAX Line recently uncovered the bone of an animal that vanished from Southern California nearly 10,000 years ago.

Bison antiquus. Photo:La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Bison antiquus. Image from La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.

After the bone was carefully removed by Metro’s onsite environmental monitors, it was sent to experts at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits who identified it as the proximal right tibia of a bison antiquus. In non-paleontologist speak, that’s the bottom right leg of an ancient bison.

The bone was discovered 70 feet below street-level and was settled in alluvial soil, which indicates that a river ran through the area at one time. It’s estimated to be approximately 10,000 to 18,000 years old, which means the animal lived during the late Pleistocene epoch.

Ancient bison were common in Southern California during that time. Bison antiquus are considered ancestors to modern bison. They were part of a large array of large mammals — including wooly mammoths, mastodons, camels and sloths — that went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene era about 11,000 years ago.

What happened? Two much-discussed theories include habitat and ecosystem changes due to climate change and over-hunting by humans.

The ancient bison bone will now be tagged and stored at a lab. Once the project is complete, it will be donated for research to the Natural History Museum.

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