The La Brea Tar Pits (or Rancho La Brea Tar Pits) are a cluster of tar pits around which Hancock Park was formed, in the urban heart of Los Angeles. Asphaltum or tar (brea in Spanish) has seeped up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years. The tar is often covered with water. Over many centuries, animals that came to drink the water fell in, sank in the tar, and were preserved as bones. The George C. Page Museum is dedicated to researching the tar pits and displaying specimens from the animals that died there. The La Brea Tar Pits are now a registered National Natural Landmark.
Tar pits form when crude oil seeps to the surface through fissures in the Earth’s crust; the light fraction of the oil evaporates, leaving behind the heavy tar, or asphalt, in sticky pools. Tar from the La Brea tar pits was used for thousands of years by local native Americans, as a glue and as waterproof caulking for baskets and canoes. After the arrival of Westerners, the tar from these pits was mined and used for roofing by the inhabitants of the nearby town of Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles.