An exploratory subway shaft dug just down the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has uncovered a treasure trove of fossils in the land where saber-tooth cats and other early animals once roamed, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
They include mollusks, asphalt-saturated sand dollars and possibly the mouth of a sea lion dating to 2 million years ago, a time when the Pacific Ocean extended several kilometres farther inland than it does today.
"Here on the Miracle Mile is where the best record of life from the last great ice age in the world is found," said paleontologist Kim Scott.
The area, dotted today with museums, restaurants, boutiques and apartment buildings, also includes the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits. It was there that mammoths and saber-toothed cats got stuck in the pits' oozing muck, which preserved their skeletons for millennia.
The shaft, dug ahead of work scheduled next year to extend a subway line across LA's west side, is now revealing far more material, including geoducks, clams, snails, mussels and even a three-metre limb from a pine tree of the type normally now found in central California's woodlands.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working with Cogstone Resource Management and the nearby George C. Page Museum to identify and preserve the artifacts.
More such discoveries are expected when excavation work begins on a nearby subway station.
"LA's prehistoric past is meeting its subway future," noted transit authority spokesman Dave Sotero.